A Vulnerable Community Keeps It Private

written by site leader, Shawna

We recently visited Project PLASE, a transitional housing and support services facility for those who have experienced homelessness and are looking to break the cycle. Our goal was to conduct video interviews with women and LGBTQ folks about street harassment, and the unique ways that people with insufficient housing might experience it. We think there is something valuable to learn from this vulnerable community, for both the anti-street harassment movement and homeless service providers. It is imperative for us, and all social justice movements, to understand that not everyone who experiences street harassment has economical access to our website and the smart phone technology that Hollaback! uses. By going directly to the homeless population, we hope make heard and empower voices that are often silenced due to the inaccessibility of our currently largely relied-upon web technology.


We originally thought of this idea back in September, when we had a booth at Baltimore’s Project Homeless Connect. We wanted to do interviews but, as we spoke about in this video, the clients that showed up were busy taking advantage of all the essential services provided (housing/food assistance, haircuts, etc). And, though many did have stories to tell, they did not feel comfortable sharing, with strangers and on camera, such difficult personal stories on being harassed and/or assaulted. We know that hearing these stories, straight from those that experience them, can be more powerful than just written words. However, it seems we weren’t prepared for the overwhelming nature of that environment. It was obvious that the homeless community needed to take advantage of the necessary services being offered that day. Likewise they might not have wanted to revisit such painful memories in an otherwise positive environment.


It turns out, even in the familiar environment of Project PLASE, the women and LGBTQ folks who did walk by our interview room on our recent visit had little interest in sharing their story publicly. We spoke with some staff and realized we will need more than a quiet room to accomplish this video project, we need direct involvement and help. They shared interest in getting the video made, and shared some insight on how we might go about it.  Suggestions included staff and counselors sitting nearby or asking the interview questions themselves. Dealing with people they know and trust would serve to make clients feel more comfortable. Since our overall goal with Hollaback! is respect, dignity, and privacy for all, we cannot forget about the community who is most often forgotten by society, but spends so much of their time in public spaces. After all, society may forget to see the homeless, but harassment definitely does not.


If you or someone you know has ever experienced homelessness and might be interested in sharing your story, please get in touch! [email protected]

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