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Voices Of Our City Choir

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Voices of Our City Choir
  • Changing the Perception of Homelessness Through Music
  • Looking for volunteers & board members
  • giv4 Category: Systems Change
  • Contact for more information:

    Lindsey Seegers,                  Deputy Executive Director
    lindsey@voicesofourcity.org 

What makes your organization unique in its approach to addressing homelessness?

Voices of Our City Choir is a safe, creative community for our unsheltered neighbors. We welcome unsheltered San Diegans with radical hospitality through friendship, food, wellness, and joy. The Choir is a safe and sober space: safe to be vulnerable, safe to receive kindness, safe to imagine—and to plan—a life off the streets for good. We partner with our Choir Members in building and visioning the future of our nonprofit.

 

The Choir Committee of over 45 Choir Members positions those with lived experience to advise the organization on dignified, accessible, and inclusive program experiences. Choir Members have ongoing opportunities to voice input on workshops and performances, including collaboration on Choir Member-created productions. Unsheltered and formerly unsheltered Choir Members become community changemakers through Voices’ longstanding Advocacy workshops, Voices of Dignity. Choir Members voice their experiences in participation with elected officials, and testify on policies related to housing and homelessness.

 


What is a misconception you think the public has about homelessness?

The scale of homelessness can feel hopeless, and insurmountable. Our unsheltered neighbors attempting to survive on the streets are ticketed and considered troublemakers. The community available for those experiencing homelessness is encampments, crowded shelters, or jails.

 

On the sidewalk, our Choir Members were seen as “troublemakers”. Yet, through the healing power of music, our Choir Members become community changemakers. When offered a safe, supportive community to belong, to connect, to express oneself, we see a community of capable, thoughtful creatives eager to participate in a solution to homelessness. Voices’ public performances offer each audience member a chance to see the joy, possibility, and humanity within our unsheltered neighbor

 


 

Watch Voices of Our City Choir's appearance on America's Got Talent:
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When was the organization founded?

Voices of Our City Choir was founded in 2016 by Steph Johnson and the late Nina Deering. Steph engaged with people living on the street near her home, bringing water and talking. She found that many people she spoke to had been former musicians, had sung in church, or simply enjoyed music.

 

The power of music had helped transform Steph’s life, from a bank employee to an award-winning jazz musician and singer. She believed it could do the same for those living on the streets. Some of our earliest choir members have now become staff and leaders in the organization, using their lived experience of homelessness to connect with new members and work for systemic change.

 


You are part of the "systems change" giv4 homelessness category. Can you explain more what work your organization does in this area?

One of our major goals is to change the perception of the people experiencing homelessness. Helping the general public relate to, and see the humanity in, those experiencing homelessness is fundamental to changing the entire public approach to the affordable housing crisis. In addition to Choir Performances and Rehearsals, we have an Advocacy Team, who share their experiences with elected bodies and advocate for change in policies and structures that cause homelessness.

 


Is your organization looking for volunteers? Are you looking for committee/board members with particular skill sets? Do you need in-kind donations of any sort?

Yes! We need volunteers to help with our weekly rehearsals, our mobile showers outreach, and especially for our event performances.  We are also growing our Board, particularly with people who have financial experience, understanding and experience with social services, and lived experience of homelessness.

 


Has your organization been featured in the media recently?

Watch our appearance on America's Got Talent. (Read the related San Diego Union Tribune story here.)

KPBS: Homeless Choir Finds Healing Through Music.

San Diego Magazine: How a Choir Group Turned Non-Profit Is Helping Unsheltered San Diegans Find Hope

 


What else would you want people to know about your organization?

We have expanded our services! In October 2022, we will launch mobile showers with haircuts and on-site resources, as well as street outreach in local parks, beaches, bridge shelters, and encampments. The goal is to foster authentic relationships with unsheltered San Diegans and invite them into our safe, sober, creative community on the path to shelter and self-sufficiency.

 

I would love to learn more directly from Voices of our City Choir
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