LA → NYC

Five weeks to understand and uncover homelessness across the United States and Canada.

Pulling out all the stops: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, Chicago, Detroit, DC, Toronto, Montreal and New York City.

My trip across North America from Los Angeles to New York started out of simple curiosity. I knew the media-led story of a divisive election was not the tale for most citizens, I had a desire to better understand the people beneath the facade and thought I should attempt to see what their daily reality really was.

Europeans have a tendency to look down on the Americans because of their unwillingness to travel the rest of the world, but we rarely take the time to head in their direction and when we do, we hardly venture outside of New York, California or Florida’s sun-coated theme parks.

As a result of this, most of what we know about the United States comes second hand from tourists and an increasingly warped media. I wanted to try and build a more truthful understanding, not based on a travel guide or Hollywood film reel. I wanted my own opinion on LA, to speak to people in Chicago’s South Side about the ‘war zone’ on their doorstep and use my innocent accent to ask questions in rural Oregon a young Latino woman daren’t. So I booked a ticket to LA and one back from New York five weeks later.

That didn’t end up being the full story.

I decided to become a politician in the UK a few years ago, mostly because I was tired of the voices of people I worked with at Oxfam and in the trade union movement not being listened to and to figure out how the political system could be altered to allow that to happen. Naive isn’t even the word.

Following an interest in where voices are most excluded from politics, I ended up working with people experiencing homelessness in Manchester. This is where I met some of the human beings with the most powerful voices I’ve ever heard and Matt Peacock of Streetwise Opera, who was putting together With One Voice, an exchange programme to facilitate these voices coming together to effect change. The programme has since evolved in to an international arts and homelessness movement and asking Matt if I could be useful if I were to travel across North America, started a feasibility study, to determine if the movement had the potential to expand across the US and Canada.

Herein lies what the journey became, so this blog will focus on and follow my attempts to uncover and understand the current homelessness situation in North America and how our most powerful tool as human beings, the arts, can combat the rise in people being forced out of their homes through situations society has created for them.

Since I’m in the United States during what seems to be the most talked about election in human history, I’ll add some of the before and after for good measure and some stories and insights I pick up along the way. Saddle up, as they say, (apparently…).