Writing class co-creates pathway to self-expression

A short story is, by definition, small. 

But, for the participants at the Primavera Men’s Shelter, the opportunity to express themselves and give and receive feedback is anything but. 

The unhoused population is by no means a monolith, but for many Primavera participants, the idea that others have had similar experiences can be tough to contextualize at times. How is it possible that someone else has had to deal with the violence and the harsh realities of being unhoused? 

On her first day as Program Assistant, Shelter Services, Destiny Gilchrist sat in on a poetry class led by a volunteer. 

Not long after Destiny transitioned toward assisting with Family Pathways program and Casa Paloma Women’s Hospitality Center, a few participants reached out and asked if there would be another writing program or a program similar to it. 

She decided to teach the class herself.

Destiny’s passion for creative writing and poetry stems from a love of reading that began in kindergarten. Throughout her time in school, she continued to develop that passion and pursued a career as an author. In November 2022, while an undergraduate at the University of Arizona, she realized that goal when her book of poetry, A Black Girl’s Truth, was published. 

“I am a published author,” said Destiny. “That gave me more confidence in terms of trying to move into this area, because my book is a book of poems, but that’s just my normal go-to. Actual story writing, I do it and then I drift off. So, I was like, this is a way for me to continue with my writing. This is a way for them to continue with theirs.”

The monthly class is limited to six participants at a time, but Destiny noted that they may increase the capacity to 10 participants and move the classes to a bi-weekly basis. Despite the small class sizes, the full range of participants are represented, from an avid journaler who always has a book in his hand, to a man who rarely interacts with others and is almost always outside on the patio or laying in bed. 

“At first, I was trying to see what kind of area the guys were wanting to delve into,” Destiny said. “And they were like, ‘We want to write stories. We want to do short stories. We want to do prompts. We want to swap work.’ They seemed very passionate.” 

Destiny tries to keep the environment light and friendly and finds a balance between encouraging participants to share and assuring them that it’s more than okay for them to listen. 

“Sometimes some people may be shy, and they don’t want to say it right away,” Destiny said. “I think creating that environment makes it easier for them to not feel like they need to [share], because they know they don’t have to.

“If we do have a case where there is no one who’s wanting to say anything, I’m like, ‘What can I do in order to share my experiences or my work in order for them to feel more comfortable to do so?’ Or we can just switch the topic completely and go on to the next steps and figure it out from there. So, there’s also been some growth in there for me to try and to learn how to do this whole kind of thing.”

One of the most exciting recent developments has been the idea to create a book to showcase their stories.

“So one of the participants brought up possibly trying to figure out a way for – if all of the other participants agreed – taking their work and putting it inside of a book to showcase all of their work that they’ve done throughout the year,” Destiny said, smiling ear to ear.

“I think that’s pretty cool, right?”

en_USEN

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