Elizabeth Chiseri-Strater helps homeless individuals share stories, poetry, art in ‘street newspaper’

Posted on August 20, 2012

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All the staff are formerly homeless, aside from founder Liz Seymour. All the guests are homeless. At the IRC – the Interactive Resource Center in downtown Greensboro – there are many stories to share.

Dr. Elizabeth Chiseri-Strater, as editor of its guests’ “street newspaper,” helps ensure they are.

Chiseri-Strater joined the UNCG English Department in 1993. She started conducting research at this day center for those experiencing homelessness a year and a half ago.

No one wanted to be in a book club, she found. No one wanted tutoring, it seemed. Mary Yost of Elon suggested a street newspaper, like she’d seen in Washington, DC. That drew interest. “Someone was going to tell their stories.”

Now 18 months down the road, the street paper reaches a milestone with the current monthly issue. It is on newsprint – just like other newspapers.

It costs $400 to print 5,000 copies. It is distributed at libraries, record stores, barber shops and colleges (look for it at Jackson Library’s entrance and the EUC bins outside the bookstore). Their biggest audience is at the YMCA on Market Street.

Yost is leaving, to work with Americorps. Cheseri-Strater will become chief editor.

“We try to have a rags to riches story in each issue,” she says. They usually have an accompanying list of resources as well, with a focus on one resource each month. This month: Women’s Resource Center.

Features this month include a look at what is and is not ethical in taking photography of street people. The cover story is on UNCG’s Speaking Center partnering over the summer with the IRC’s Job Skills class. Two UNCG students, both UNCG Speaking Center consultants, helped clients with their interviewing skills. Natalie Jones described seeing one particular client’s confidence growing. Andria Williamson said, “If we can help with their sense of confidence, everything that follows will fall right into place.”

Chiseri-Strater is asked about her passion for the center. “I can’t imagine not having a home,” she says, not having a “coterie of people” to help if misfortune strikes. Also, she understands the perspective of family members. One of her family members was homeless for four months, once.

Also, she has been friends with Liz Seymour for many years. When choosing a location for her research, the IRC presented itself as the right place. And to engage with clients, as she did her research, the newspaper helped break the ice. She notes that faculty and students in the English department have volunteered there – as well as others on campus, either individually or with various UNCG programs.

The Greensboro Voice can be viewed here. The cover story is of UNCG undergraduates teaching interview skills at IRC – see short video.

Reposted from UNCG Campus Weekly

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