Local play aims to give homeless a voice

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COLUMBIA — As part of National Hunger and Homeless Awareness Week, people took to the stage to tell the stories for people who don't normally have a voice.

“Street Stories; Glimpses of Homelessness” is a play performed at First Christian Church in Columbia, sponsored by the Columbia Interfaith Resource Center.

Nora Diezel is the co-director of the play, and said many of the stories recreated in the play are from personal experiences of the homeless.

“We wanted it to be the voice of this community so we each submitted our own original pieces and we collected some interviews from homeless people at the shelter and different local sources for our material,” she said.

All ticket sales benefit Turning Point, which provides basic needs and services to the homeless, and Room at the Inn shelters, a number of congregations in Columbia that provide shelter to those who have no place to go in the winter months.

This is the second year of the event; last year’s show started with a story written by a local professor.

“A professor from the university by the name of David Webber wrote a play about his experiences as volunteer at Room at the Inn,” said co-director Caryl Bryan.

Bryan said this year’s show is very different from the last.

“Last year’s was a play involving 14 characters, most of whom were on stage at the same time. This year it is a group of about 10 vignettes; most of them are just one, two or three people on stage at a time,” she said.

The 2015 play raised more than $5,000 for Turning Point and Room at the Inn.

While the proceeds help Columbia’s local shelters, the main goal of the event is to raise awareness.

“Really our main goal is to increase that awareness, let people know about the situation and also to emphasize that people who are homeless are no different from anyone else,” Bryan said.

Not only that, but the play gives people a place to express themselves.

“I think that they love having a voice, having a way to express their point of view because that’s just rare for them, to be asked for their opinion,” Dietzel said.

Tickets for “Street Stories: Glimpses of Homelessness” are available online or at the door.

The play runs on Saturday, November 19 at 7 p.m., and Sunday, November 20 at 3 p.m.