National Hunger & Homeless Week: An essay by Samantha Hedges

We invited our volunteers to write about what motivates them in their work for the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. Their essays will be posted daily as we mark National Hunger & Homeless Awareness Week.

This is written by Samantha Hedges, a former intern who volunteers with a street youth group co-run by CCH. Samantha also co-chairs membership for the CCH Associate Board, which is made up of young professionals. She works as a youth development associate at Voices for Illinois Children. 

I am a firm believer in the power of individual and collective voice. I believe in the power of people to use their own life experiences, their own stories, good or bad, to change the world for the better. These beliefs are why I volunteer through CCH with the homeless youth activist group, Homeless Experts Living Life’s Obstacles (H.E.L.L.O.).

People become homeless for a variety of reasons, and no one story is ever the same, and no one struggle is ever the same. When I am volunteering with H.E.L.L.O., I get to work with powerful youth who are brave and willing to use their voice and artistic talents to share their story of how they became homeless. When they share their stories, they call the general public to action to help end homelessness, and help policymakers understand why funding for youth services, shelters, and drop-in centers is important to helping them be successful in life.

I have remained involved with CCH and H.E.L.L.O. because homelessness is an important issue that needs to be addressed and prevented. As we saw during the Great Recession, anyone can fall on hard times. We all need a safety to ensure that we are able to remain prosperous citizens even during hard personal and economic times.

The youth of H.E.L.L.O. have grand plans for their life, just like I do, so if my time can help their voice be heard in the spirit of progress, then it is worth every minute.