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Video: If Our Streets Could Speak

A spoken word artist, public speaker, and certified teacher, Holly Painter is passionate about sharing her stories, inspiring audiences, and advocating for important causes through poetry.  Holly was commissioned by the City of London Homeless Prevention Service Area to write “If Our Streets Could Speak” and presented the poem at the CAEH National Conference in November 2016.

“If Our Streets Could Speak”

Written by Holly Painter for the City of London / Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness National Conference 2016

"If our streets could speak
they’d ask us
what do we see in their concrete crowds
between the bustle and buildings
stretching towards the sky
amidst the traffic and noise and passersby
what do we view
when we roam our city’s roads
or perhaps a better question
what do we choose not to

If our streets could speak
they’d wonder
what do we see in the eyes of the unseen
those sitting between cracks in our sidewalks
left falling through cracks in our system
do we even bother to make contact
they say ignorance is bliss
but our ignorance can be the kiss of death for some
tell me
why do our streets have names
but the people left on them do not

If our streets could speak
they’d question
do we notice the intersections
the crossing of a lack of place to sleep
with so many other marginalizing identities
Aboriginal, queer, transgender, youth,
mental health struggles,
addictions, disability, drug use
there is much more at stake that needs changing
than just providing people a bed,
we can’t just present a blanket and a pillow
and forget about the rest,
patching potholes won’t fix an issue
that needs to be dug up and repaved completely

If our streets could speak
they’d say thank you
to those working the front lines
bringing dignity to the lives of those
who are so often forgotten
those who have a struggle and story
most don’t care to listen to
do we recognize the work that is being done
by the ones who see people as people
far beyond the statistics
and is eradicating the desperate need
for all their tireless work
something we can envision

If our streets could speak
they’d have tales to tell we could never dream of
but why ask our roads
when we can ask those
right in front of us
what for them needs to be done
how we can bring the number of those without homes
from any to none

If our streets could speak
they’d ask us
to open our eyes to our community
and those who need help
and to see in the solution
every bit of ourselves"


© Holly Painter 2016