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Horizons Creative Writing Outreach

Horizons offers twice-monthly creative writing workshops to homeless parents, mostly mothers, who live at family shelters in Chicago.

About 100 writers participate each year. Selected poems and essays are published online in the Horizons Reading Room and in booklets distributed at the spring showcase. The 2014 event was held June 24 at Caffe Baci’.

This program is led by Senior Community Organizer Wayne Richard, a staff member since 2000. Wayne first became involved with CCH as a leader, when he was living in a West Side shelter that hosted an earlier version of the writing program.

“At the time I started, I didn’t even know I could write,” he says. Wayne’s poetry has since been published, featured in poetry slams, and performed on WBEZ Public Radio and WGN-TV.

“Everyone has a song to sing,” says Wayne, pointing to pieces written by participants that range from emotional to wistful, hopeful to angry. Most of the writing is “about relationships to someone or to something – the lack of, or need of, or appreciation of relationships.”

Wayne Richard prepares the mic for poet Clorinda Johnson in 2012 (Photos by Jeff Foy)

Wayne Richard prepares the mic for poet Clorinda Johnson (Photo by Jeff Foy)

Horizons’ outreach to youth is featured in a November 2012 film produced by Equal Voice online newspaper. The 9-minute film, More Than Housing: One Person’s Voice, highlights one of Wayne’s outreach sessions, and focuses on youth participant Shon Robertson, a spoken word poet.

“What I really like about the writing workshop is that you can be you, you can be free,” Shon says in the film. “Poetry is about you, and your heart. When you’re homeless, you do have to suppress your individuality, your uniqueness, but writing helps you bring that back to life.”

In 2014, Horizons receives a project-based grant from the Seabury Foundation.

For more information, contact Senior Organizer Wayne Richard at (312) 641-4140.

To learn more about Wayne’s story, watch his autobiographical video Sofas: