Saturday, May 16, 2015

Dallas Public Library - First Annual Community Forum: Re-Defining Community: One Conversation at a Time

Wow! This was an incredible program, organized by the Dallas Public Library's H.E.L.P. Homeless Engagement & Leadership Program. We, at MDHA, were privileged to be one of the co-sponsors. 

H.E.L.P. is a robust initiative, that conducts an array of library programs for those experiencing homeless. They promote social interaction and inclusion, and provide individualized assistance with information, referral, resume writing and job applications. You can't miss the H.E.L.P. desk on the first floor of the central branch.

I love origin stories of individuals and organizations. The origin story of H.E.L.P. is beautiful and simple. When Jo Giudice became the Director of Libraries a little more than two years ago, she was of course cognizant of the many interactions libraries have with the homeless. She just decided they should be positive! So, she led the library in doing just that. It started with simple Coffee &Conversation. It now includes Game Day, Throwback Thursday Movies, Music Classes, Urban Photography and even the popular Street View Podcast. The main thing, though, is just the positive proactive welcoming approach.

After Jo welcomed everyone, Shavon Moore, our Continuum of Care Program Coordinator, spoke eloquently about homelessness in Dallas, our annual Point in Time Homeless Count, and how MDHA is ending homelessness. The keynote was "We Are All Homeless" delivered by artist and SMU professor, Willie Baronet. He passed out signs he has been buying from folks standing on street corners, and showed art he had created from some of these. He discussed, at length, an extensive 7620 mile road trip to buy more signs, and a documentary he is creating about this experience, the folks he met along the way, and what he learned from them. You can learn more about this at
www.weareallhomeless.org

Next was a very meaningful community panel, a lunch and group discussion, and a ribbon-cutting for the new community exchange area on the first floor of the Central Library, and its centerpiece a beautiful mural. Check out this article in the DMN for more about this:
www.dallasnews.com/news/metro/20150514-downtown-dallas-library-hopes-mural-inspires-community-to-connect.ece Don't forget to visit, admire and engage, when you have a chance!

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