Breakfast to benefit Sojourner Place

August 19, 2013


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Washington State University-Vancouver associate professor Desiree Hellegers, Ph.D., will share the stage at a fundraising breakfast in Seattle on Wednesday, September 18, with Mona Joyner and Delores Loann Winston, formerly homeless activists whose stories are included in a book featuring oral histories of Seattle women surviving homelessness.

Hellegers will be the keynote speaker for A Cause To Dine For, which benefits Sojourner Place, a Sisters of Providence ministry that empowers homeless women to rise above their challenges. The breakfast will be held at 7:30 a.m. at Hyatt at Olive 8 hotel, 1635 8th Avenue.

The oral history, “No Room of Her Own: Women’s Stories of Homelessness, Life, Death and Resistance,” was published in 2011. The book features the stories of 15 homeless and formerly homeless women Hellegers interviewed over the course of almost twenty years. The women speak about their struggles, life-threatening health issues and the frightening routine threats of the streets, but also about their intellectual interests, spiritual lives, and their activism to end homelessness and death on the street through work with Women in Black and other groups.

“It’s crucial for people to hear directly from women who have lived experience of homelessness so that they can understand just how dehumanizing and life-threatening it really is,” said Hellegers, who is an associate professor in the English department and co-founder of WSU-Vancouver’s Center for Social and Environmental Justice.

“The women are amazing storytellers and also powerful social critics whose experience has given them a unique window into the state of civil society in the United States. Interviewing women also provided me with new insights into the structural roots of homelessness, from mass incarceration and militarism to unprecedented wealth inequality. My hope is that when people better understand just how traumatic homelessness is, they will reject arguments about austerity and dedicate themselves to ending this wholly preventable social problem. Living in a society in which people suffer and, in some cases die on the street, cheapens all of our lives and diminishes us all.”

Hellegers, like the sponsors of Sojourner Place, believes that most people are too far removed and insulated from the causes and effect of homelessness, particularly on women and their children. The Sisters of Providence opened Sojourner Place in 1987 to offer a place of respect, compassion and support to homeless women as they transition into self-determined independence. The women who live in the house for up to a year while they work or take classes are offered shelter in a safe, supportive environment, meals, life-skills classes and goal-oriented counseling and social-service case management.

Strengthening families is an important component of Sojourner Place. Women who are pregnant are able to stay for three months after birth, and then are helped to find other supportive housing. Women who have been separated from their children are helped to work towards completing the steps required to rebuild a relationship with them. A Cause To Dine For is an annual event that supports the Sojourner Place ministry and its programs.