Giving truth to Memphis youth
By Emily Burkhead & Kira Tucker (White Station High School & Central High School)
When given an assignment to reach out to others, award winning writer Ellen Morris Prewitt wanted to humble herself unto people less fortunate than her with writing, thus sparking an idea to reach out to the non-profit organization Door of Hope.
Prewitt, who practiced law for 19 years before writing, began a weekly writing group open to all, but its purpose was primarily established to help those affected by homelessness and seeking help with Door of Hope. Prewitt gave the group topics to write about and as time went on, more and more people started to attend the meetings. Soon, she compiled the writing samples of the participants’ lives and journeys, and she made them into a book.
About seven years after the founding of the writing group, the book has been published and is being sold in local book stores; it is titled Writing Our Way Home: A Group Journey out of Homelessness.
Door of Hope’s Writing Our Way Home sends a message of transformation through heartbreak, self-reflection and recovery. The cultivating and relatable written pieces remind readers that we are all human, interconnected in ways that we often do not realize, until the stories within ourselves are unlocked. This work reveals that our basic goals, needs, and longings are simply person-to-person variations on the same human recipe for survival.
The 15 authors elaborate on different aspects of life to bring together the wisdom they’ve garnered through their experiences with homelessness. One of these aspects is the fact that readers can relate to each story, allowing the reader to understand the importance of treating others with respect, regardless of their background.
Roderick Baldwin, one of the writers, discussed his priority in family. “I found out that my family just wanted the best of me. It just comes down to that; your family really loves each other. Not just because we come together at funerals or family reunions. The family unit is all about love, caring, and sharing in the good times or the bad times.”
Tamara Hendrix also shared her views on the importance of family: “Family can teach you what values to set for yourself as well as give you the tools to start your own life. Each member has his or her own uniqueness that enriches the others’ lives.”
Leroy Scott, another writer, said “Don’t be so fast to judge. Live and let live.” Not all homeless people are in the same situation with drugs and addiction. He reveals how he came to view the matter after putting it “in the Lord’s hands”: the ones people look down on might be the very people needed to lean on if faced with a similar situation later in life.
Executive Director of Door of Hope, Andy Jacuzzi, elaborated on the important impact the writing group has on the homeless community. “[The writing group] was a way for them to be able to tell their stories, have a voice again.”
Jacuzzi went on to explain the rights that are “stripped” from those who are homeless, as they lose their voices and respect from society. With the writing group, the mission of Door of Hope to help those without a place to live due to a mental or physical disability is fulfilled beyond expectation. “…we have case managers available to make sure that they’re thriving and not just surviving; so programs like the writing group, it’s great for Door of Hope because it gets our guests involved.”
Even with the success from this program, the non-profit extends its abilities further with plenty of other initiatives taking place such as arts and crafts, health and fitness, and personal gardens.