Maine homeless persons to present drama 'Hear Our Stories, Know Our Names'

The Bates College Office of the Chaplain and the college’s Hunger and Homelessness Committee present “Hear Our Stories, Know Our Names,” a drama performed by Maine homeless persons at 7:30 p.m., Thursday, March 2, in Chase Hall Lounge, 53 Campus Ave., Bates College. Open to the public free of charge, the performance is a collaboration of the Preble Street Resource Center, the Haymarket Fund and the Economic Justice Program of the Maine Council of Churches. Donations to the resource center and the justice program will be accepted. For more information, call the chaplain’s office at 207-786-8272.

According to the Maine Council of Churches, 1,200 Maine people have no home, no place of their own to sleep, bathe or eat on any given night. Some are families.

We often hear stories of poverty but are separated from the experience by distance and class, explains Delores Vail, economic justice program director for the Maine Council of Churches. “This is a very powerful witness of the lives of the poor and homeless. Many who have seen it are left in tears as they realize the difficulty the poor face, trying to improve their lives,” writes Vail.

“People who see the play ask ‘What can we do?’ With less and less affordable housing available, with higher and higher rents, and with some living in substandard housing, this is a question we all need to ask ourselves.”

The production includes poetry readings, monologues and a play. Vail first conceived the idea for the performance more than two years ago when the Maine Council of Churches received a $5,000 grant from the Haymarket Foundation for the project.

Led by theatrical specialist Marte McNally and Carrie Buntrock Moore, liaison to the community living in poverty, the performing group includes homeless individuals from all walks of life: Moore herself, who has dealt with homelessness in a rural context; Joanie Bourque who experienced homelessness and drug addiction as a teenager; Judith Brittain, a shelter resident who is legally blind; Mark “Gypsy” McForbes, an advocate, cook and dishwasher at the Preble Street Resource Center; Billy Woolverton, a hobo, hitchhiker and freight train rider who has won poetry prizes; Tracy Leon Warren, a loner who confronted prison and racism before encountering the grip of poverty; and Rose Duran, a Portland native who has lived in cellars and under the South Portland Bridge.

“Rarely do we get this opportunity to hear these words from people, like us, telling about how they may shift from homeless to ‘home,’ to homeless again,” wrote a New Gloucester resident who saw the performance. “It is a privilege for us to have this brief but brilliant glimpse into that life on the edge we call homelessness.”

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