Voices from the streets
Launched in 2005 with funding from the City of Toronto’s Supporting Community Partnership Initiative to develop a speakers bureau comprised of individuals with mental health and addictions history.
We soon began receiving requests for speakers to make presentations to a wide range of educational, social service, government, and community settings indicating a real need for this kind of initiative.
Voices From the Street started out with individuals who have had direct experiences with homelessness, poverty, and/or mental health issues, however we have expanded to people fleeing domestic violence, newcomers, gender issues and other forms of marginalization. The organization works to put a human face to homelessness and involves people with direct experience as leaders in a public education process.
Voices from the Street is a 12 week training program which the curriculum includes workshops on developing a personal narrative, public speaking skills, conflict resolution, developing key messages, facilitation skills, and diversity training plus much more. Pat Capponi, a well-known author and activist on issues of poverty and mental health, is the lead facilitator. In addition to public-speaking skills, graduates of the program have an understanding of policy issues and the need for systemic change.
The Speakers Bureau approach has proven to be a unique and necessary tool. It has established a significant platform for those who have experienced forms of marginalization to talk from a personal perspective and to educate a cross-section of the public. The Speakers Bureau creates opportunities for members to advocate for societal change, as well as build the necessary bridges with the rest of society so that we may work cooperatively to break down stigma and discrimination.
Voices from the Street was originally developed through a partnership between the Ontario Council of Alternative Businesses, (OCAB) now Working for Change, the Gerstein Centre, and the Parkdale Activity-Recreation Centre (PARC).
In 2005, the City provided seed funding for the first training session. We have since received support from the Atkinson Foundation and the Metcalf Foundation for our on-going work.