The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Monday March 20th

Talking Sidewalks displays art, writing from homeless


Talking Sidewalks, a magazine that features writing and artwork by the homeless and impoverished, began in 2008 as an extension of Homeless Outreach Poverty Eradication , within the Campus Y.

The new edition of the magazine is set to be released April 12 and will feature pieces collected over the last year.

“The idea came from these writing sessions that were happening each week that they should turn what was being written into a publication to distribute to the community,” said junior Nikhil Umesh, editor of the magazine.

Sophomore Rhett Gough, distribution and media director for the magazine, said the goal of the publication has been to increase awareness and break down the stigma of homelessness in the community.

Sophomore Maitreyee Singh is the organizer for the women’s shelter project, an attempt to connect Talking Sidewalks with Chapel Hill’s Homestart Women’s Shelter. Singh said the community’s response to the project has been very positive.

“It’s humanizing the experience of homelessness rather than an abject occurrence that we witness and that we realize is happening in our midst, but realizing that these are people with stories and important feelings,” she said.

Umesh said that through Talking Sidewalks he discovered that many people have a hard time discussing poverty because they cannot relate to the experience of homelessness.

“It’s only through conversation that we are able to break down these barriers and have some level of really good understanding of what a lot of the men at the shelter are going through,” he said.

“We’re a lot more similar than we are different.”

Gough has been working on getting the magazine’s information out to a wider audience by working with the UNC Service and Leadership living-learning community and developing the magazine’s online presence through its Facebook page and website.

The magazine also has a partnership with UNC anthropology professor Charles Price, one of whose courses is collaborating with Community Outreach and Talking Sidewalks to revitalize the publication with a release party.

The upcoming April issue will be dedicated to Gary Harwell, one of the magazine’s former contributors.

A St. Louis native, Harwell moved to Chapel Hill while recovering from alcoholism. He was one of the first writers for the magazine and helped bring other homeless people in Chapel Hill into the project. He passed away from cancer last summer.

“It is quite a hardship to come over, and he was such a light for a lot of people within the community, especially in the shelter,” Umesh said.

Singh said that Harwell was great for Talking Sidewalks because his history with the organization helped him take pride in his work, a feeling the magazine’s staff hopes future writers can share.

“We would really like to see the guys feel and claim ownership over this project and recognize the importance and the integral part that they play in these interactions and relationships that we have,” she said.


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