Lessons of Hope: A Discussion on Homelessness


Street Sense

On Thursday March 21, Street Sense partnered with Miriam’s Kitchen to host the first of many “Lessons of Hope” community forums about the issue of homelessness in the District. The discussion, held at Miriam’s Kitchen, featured three panelists who have each worked to alleviate homelessness in the city.


The panelists were Susie Sinclair Smith, executive director of the Montgomery Coalition for the Homeless;  Michele May, the adult systems of care manager at the D.C. Department of Mental Health; and Brian Carome, Street Sense’s executive director.


The panel was convened, ideally, to determine the best way to solve homelessness.


The panelists offered alternative methods that have been successful in the past. Carome spoke from 30 years of experience with shelters and housing programs, as well as his participation in demonstrations and acts of civil disobedience to seek fair laws for the homeless community.


May currently works with Open Arms Housing and in the D.C. government. In the past 20 years, she has helped economically challenged individuals, including people who have experienced mental health issues, addictions, trauma and other setbacks.


While May now works with the government and believes that it is more involved in low-income issues than it had been in the past, she also said that starting from the bottom up to help the homeless is successful: “Working with grassroots organizations … is the way to help people.”


Lastly, Smith has accumulated more than 25 years of experience with non-profit services to help the homeless and founded the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless. She admitted that she has been devoted to aiding individuals experiencing homelessness since the time she realized that she could make a difference for that population. “Once you realize there are people who are homeless, you want to right that wrong,” Smith said.


Although the panelists could not concur on the best way to achieve it, each advocate agreed that much more affordable housing and a right to housing make up the path to end homelessness.

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We believe ending homelessness begins with listening to the stories of those who have experienced it.