SOAR Voices


Ohio Homeless Conference Addresses Youth Homelessness

“Home Equals Life.” – Evicted by Matthew Desmond

On April 9 and 10, 2018 I attended the Housing Ohio 2018 COHHIO Conference, and it was fantastic! The general sessions were jammed packed with partners that wanted to do their part in eradicating the issue of homelessness for all people. The energy was optimistic and the information shared was enlightening, to say the least. I met some really great people at this conference and the experience is one that I will not forget.

Sen. Sherrod Brown provided the welcome speech, addressing the crisis for affordable housing, providing possible remedies, and offering his support. Opening keynote speaker and Director of A Way Home, Megan Gibbard Kline discussed the organization’s national efforts to prevent homelessness among youth in America. She kicked off the conference with a discussion of the importance of equity and encouraged providers to understand the challenges posed to youth of color and youth members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community. Megan referenced one of her favorite quotes “If you don’t believe that we can end youth homelessness, please get out of the way.”  She reminded us that “Equity is not something that you pray for, it’s something that you implement” and encouraged us all to “Look at your data to see if what you are doing works for people of color and LGBT communities. If we are going to end youth homelessness, we have to implement what works BEST for youth of color and LGBT youth.”

In between SOAR presentations, I attended a powerful session entitled, “Daring to Look: Racial Disparities in the Homeless Population,” facilitated by Kimberly Brazwell of King Lincoln Family Services with presenters Dr. Marian Moser of the University of Maryland and Jillian Olinger of the Kirwan Center. Each facilitator presented information that was insightful, engaging, historically sound, and filled with information that brought to the forefront how established laws, policies, and historical practices have impacted the realities of homelessness today. The session wrapped up with a challenge to participants to approach their work by recognizing the "Problems of systems that have failed people and created vulnerability…the systems we have created have failed.”

The Director of Operations at the Ohio Civil Rights Commission, Darlene Sweeney-Newbern was the closing keynote speaker. She is a dynamic defender of civil rights and housing equity. She shared the triumphant experience of helping to secure a $4.3 million settlement in a major redlining case in Toledo, Ohio. She concluded by assuring us that the power to change the world only takes a person with three bones; a wish bone to be filled with hope, a jaw bone to speak on injustice, and a back bone to have the courage to stand for what is right and equal for all people.

The conference concluded in song as Commons in Harmony, a community choir, used their voices to remind conference guests that ending homelessness is a collaborative effort and that we should all raise our voices and encourage each other to “Lean On Me.”

Although some of the information was hard (personally and professionally) to digest at times, the experience left me feeling very proud of the work that I do. With the SOAR model, racism has no chance when faced with The Listings! I’ll keep SOARing right on past the bias.

The views, opinions, and content expressed in SOAR Voices do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or policies of the Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS), the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors.