The video above is a panel of (1) Stepping Stone’s executive director, Julie Jeppson, (2) Illusion Theater producer and actor, Michael Robbins, (3) Illusion Theater actor, Beth, (4) past resident, Jasmine, and (5) past resident and staff, Michelle.

They share the importance of how Real Stories | One Stage is a life-changing event, not only for the actors and residents, but also the audience.

Julie begins by sharing how working with SSEH over the past nine years has brought many stories and experiences into the shelter. Stepping Stone continues to strive to support by providing critical support services; however, the main goal is to have the residents move toward self-sufficiency.

What lead to the partnership with Illusion Theater?

It is essential that people hear from those that have or are experiencing homelessness. To hear the reality of that moment in time. These stories are so authentic that they have a profound impact on the audience.

Julie explains, “I really wanted to partner with professional writers and a director to get the passion from the residents and former residents on stage. By presenting their stories in a unique situation and make the live performance fascinating. I wanted to have those who are experts in live performance, the written word, and song, to let them take the words of our residents and do what they do best.”

The Panel Resident’s Stories

Jasmine shares her journey of being released from jail and just being dumped with nowhere to go, no support, no direction. Stepping Stone was where she felt loved. She loved the structure and the ability to tell her story in a safe place.

“They held me through everything that happened. The case managers invested in me and my future. You could feel the love.”

Michelle actually transitioned from being a resident to working for Stepping Stone. She states how Stepping Stone was her lifeline.

“After leaving, I found myself wanting to work for Stepping Stone. I learned how to live in a whole new way. When I left, it was a sad day, but exciting. I needed them again not for shelter, but to love others. I’m a lifer in this work.”

Illusion Theater’s Perspective

Beth, from Illusion, shared how it was an honor to interview the people who have experienced homelessness. It’s a visceral experience.

“Our quest began three years ago and is to honor their stories and present them in a way to respect their story.”

As the years go, it is a creative challenge to share these stories in new ways. This year, we’re looking at using a Brazilian style of puppetry for one of the story segments. It will be very moving.

Why Do We Tell Stories?

Julie shares the the empowerment and ownership of telling your own story. The difference in this medium is that when the story is told to a worker or case manager, they are telling their story to get something in return, but for Real Stories | One Stage, they are giving back by telling their truth.

Jasmine tells her story to tell her pain. Living on the streets is hard. It’s cold.

“Stepping Stone was able to care for me too, by providing support, materials, hygiene, and budgeting help. It is so nice. My son is autistic, and I need the help! I get frustrated when I can’t figure it out. They help you all around. Julie is going to make it happen for you!”

Michelle tells her story to help others understand and take away the stigmas surrounding homelessness.

“We’re human. Life happens. We don’t just give up. We don’t want just a handout. I want to change the perception and to open the minds and hearts. Create positive change on a bigger scale.”

The Purpose of Real Stories | One Stage

Yes, the ultimate purpose of this event if a fundraiser. But it is so much more than that. It is to get the word and stories out. And as Michelle said, “Get rid of the stigma.”

“Just because we don’t have, doesn’t mean that we are less.” – former resident

Life is hard. It is not easy being poor. It’s a full-time job just getting the help you need. Stepping Stone is there to relieve this effort.

This is where Julie believes that the community needs to invest! We need more support. We need more shelters like Stepping Stone, so we can help more lives.

In Michelle’s words, “They take the time to invest in us. I would be a poster speaker forever. My background might be good, but my future is definitely bright!”

We thank the residents for the bravery and vulnerability to share their stories with complete strangers! It’s amazing and humbling. It also humbling to be on the other end of these stories.

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