September’s Speaker on Homelessness: Melissa’s Story Part II

BY ELLIE KAPCAR

Melissa Mosby stepped into “the Mariemont bubble” for a half-hour assembly on Friday, September 2nd. Students listened as she shared her life story, specifically her own experiences with homelessness. Melissa’s words changed the way many students and teachers view people experiencing homelessness.

Melissa admitted to the crowd that she was very nervous. The largest crowd she had spoken to was 150 people, so the entire staff and student body of over 500 people was daunting. “I think the most amazing part was that she was actually able to share with all of us her difficult personal life,” says junior Lily Toman.

According to students, the most important takeaway of Melissa’s message, and the most important takeaway for students, was that we see homelessness from a human perspective: people are people, first and foremost. Homelessness is temporary in most cases, and many people experience it as a result of generational poverty or other factors like mental illness.

“Before hearing Melissa speak, I thought that homelessness was the person’s own fault because they hadn’t worked hard all their life. But that’s not the case for a lot of people,” says senior Bobby Dennerll.

“It impressed me how well-spoken Melissa was,” says Mr. Miller. “Too often we jump to conclusions based upon other homeless folks we’ve run into in our lives, but she really broke that down for me.”

Despite intense nerves, Melissa articulated her experiences which had a powerful effect on students. (PHOTO BY COLPI)

Despite intense nerves, Melissa articulated her experiences which had a powerful effect on students. (PHOTO BY COLPI) .

 

And for one student, it wasn’t the first time hearing Melissa’s story. Two years ago Emma Worple and Bailey Geers were downtown passing out sandwiches to people on the streets. It was getting dark, and they were about to head to dinner when they saw Melissa selling Streetvibes on a corner.

Melissa asked if they wanted to hear about what she was selling. Worple and Geers said yes and then learned about how Streetvibes gives people experiencing homelessness a voice while providing money to support them.

“We gave Melissa a food pack and bought one of the newspapers. She just wanted to talk so much, so she told us her story. Melissa was so grateful that we had brought sandwiches and taken the time to talk with her. She even wrote Bailey and I a thank you note afterwards,” says Worple.

“She talked about how so many people pass by and give her a dirty look, which she hates because it takes away her humanity. Sometimes we come across scary-looking people on the streets, and you don’t necessarily have to go out of your way to talk to them, but you also don’t have to ignore them,” Worple says.

Worple shares that meeting Melissa changed her view of the world, and particularly the treatment of people experiencing homelessness. Worple has written about how this impact is important to her in school essays and college applications.

When Worple was listening to Melissa’s story during the assembly, it struck her as oddly familiar. She says, “When Melissa talked about the importance of eye contact and said her name shortly after, I thought, ‘That’s her! That’s the woman!’ and it sent chills all down my body.”

After the assembly Worple talked to Melissa, who remembered meeting her two years prior. “It’s just crazy how everything worked out, and it’s such a small world. I think Melissa has impacted my life more than I impacted hers. Melissa has affected so many more people than she realizes,” says Worple.

Lily Toman embraces Melissa and thanks her for sharing her story. (PHOTO BY WISEMAN)

Lily Toman embraces Melissa and thanks her for sharing her story. (PHOTO BY WISEMAN)

It doesn’t just stop here. Melissa’s story is continuing to impact students and mobilizing them to make a difference.

President of Key Club, junior Molly Mysogland says, “It was very clear that nearly all the students were moved by Melissa’s story. Students came up to me afterward and asked what Key Club was going to be doing to help, so we’re looking into possibly bringing a Shantytown to Kusel.”

Gunnar Nixon, senior kicker for the football team, wants to help raise awareness and money for homelessness through his charity Kicking Hunger. “I’m thinking of doing some sort of booth at the homecoming game where people agree to donate a certain amount of money based on how many points I score. The money will go to City Gospel Mission and the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition,” says Nixon.

 

What You Can Do:

Practical Advice:

  • Use the term “people experiencing homelessness” rather than “homeless people”
  • Choose to view people experiencing homelessness as people first and foremost– a practical way to apply this is by making eye contact with those you meet on the streets
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