A consistent problem Project Homeless comes across in our coverage is writing about numbers. We write about numbers constantly: How much money is spent on homeless services. How many people are making it out. How many people are dying while homeless.
We often struggle to portray the people behind the numbers. Homelessness is deeply personal, and it’s something everyone experiences differently.
That’s why we’re hosting a night that’s all about personal stories: It’s called Ignite Project Homeless, and we’re putting it on in partnership with Seattle University’s Project on Family Homelessness. The event will be at Seattle University’s Pigott Auditorium on June 7 from 7 — 8:30 p.m.
The event is free, but we’d like you to RSVP, which you can do here.
Here are some of the speakers you’ll hear:
Rebekah Demirel was homeless in her teen years in Vancouver, where she was in and out of foster care. She works as an East Asian medicine practitioner and clinical counselor, and trains social service and medical professionals on trauma integration and self-care. Her new memoir, “Nothing’s for Nothing: Transformation Through Trauma,” is a resource for people healing childhood trauma and family relationships.
Brice Maryman is an award-winning landscape architect with MIG|SvR. Disquieted by the rise in homelessness in our public realm, he recently completed a Landscape Architecture Foundation fellowship exploring the intersection of homelessness and public space. His podcast, HomeLandLab, helps listeners understand homelessness by sharing a variety of perspectives on this complex subject.
Hyla Dobaj is a former audiologist who worked in aural habilitation with deaf children before experiencing homelessness. Her main passion is being a parent to two incredible girls, one of whom is deaf, and both of whom came from traumatic beginnings. She loves animals and would adopt all who needed a home if she could.
Karina O’Malley has lived in Kirkland since 1996. She is a stay-at-home mom for her three boys. She was lucky enough to be involved in the creation of both The Sophia Way, for women experiencing homelessness, and the Lake Washington United Methodist Church Safe Parking Program, for women and families living in their cars.
Amanda Richer is a community liaison working with the city of Seattle. She provides training and education on solving the growing humanitarian crises, and provides, accepts and distributes donations through her company, BEING, LLC. She has used her many challenges, such as displacement, to look at real-world solutions and positive outcomes.
Sheri Collins is a 47-year-old woman with 25 years in the workforce and roots of origin in Texas and Oklahoma. For the past seven years, she has lived in her car. She’s a huge dog lover, and her mindset is that perspective is everything. “I make the best out of every situation/circumstance, and everything eventually works its way into goodness.”
Jennie Heideman is a marketing consultant to e-commerce businesses. Heideman also spends time mentoring others in financial literacy, home economics, and strategic planning. In her free time, she enjoys gardening, writing, reading, and spending time with her two boys and husband.
Fawn Batten is a downtown Seattle ambassador for the Metropolitan Improvement District, a program managed by the Downtown Seattle Association. She’s a mother of three who grew up on the Colville Indian Reservation in Eastern Washington. After coming to Seattle, she lived in a tent and in shelters intermittently.
Hope Cole-Turner comes from a long line of storytellers and sinners, do-it-yourselfers and dreamers, outlaws and outliers. Originally from a small town in southeast Oklahoma, Hope and her family migrated to Seattle in 2013. She is currently working on a semi-autobiographical coming-of-age screenplay about growing up in the Bible Belt during the 1980s.
Diaudre Hines is a U.S. Army veteran who grew up in Detroit, Mich. He was honorably discharged from the military in 1999 following an accident, after which he came to Tacoma and worked as a civil-service employee at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. He currently lives in Renton with his son, Jayshon, who is 6 years old.
Toya Thomas is a community organizer who lives in Kent. In 2016, Thomas’s family was one of the nearly 70 families at the Renton Woods Apartments who had to leave because they used “Section 8” Housing Choice Vouchers to help pay their rent. Thomas organized her neighbors and helped pass a new law, House Bill 2578, in March, which prohibits discrimination based on a renter’s source of income.
Derrick Belgarde is an enrolled member of the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians of Oregon, and also Chippewa-Cree from Rocky Boy Montana. He’s the deputy director of the Chief Seattle Club in Downtown Seattle. Belgarde is a proud father of three and is married to the wonderful Lua Belgarde.