Please note, as of January 15, 2016, the administrative fee has increased. For an event in the DC Metro area, the cost for 1 speaker will be $50 honorarium plus a $25 program fee for a total of $75.
We are also instituting a sponsorship program so that organizations with the ability and desire to do so can assist schools with fewer resources in bringing a Faces of Homelessness panel to speak to their students. If your organization is in need of sponsorship, please email us at email@example.com.
The “Faces of Homelessness” Speakers' Bureau is comprised of extraordinary people who are committed to sharing their personal and powerful experiences of homelessness with others. From homeless activists to riveting poets, all have found a unique way for their voices to be heard.
Members of the NCH Speakers' Bureau
Penny Callan | Candi Darley | Shelley Gilbert | Sheila Melvin | T. Sanders | Karen Ennis
Additional biographies forthcoming
Donald Whitehead: Donald Hugh Whitehead Jr. is recognized as a leading experts on homelessness, having served as the Executive Director of the National Coalition for the Homeless, Executive Director of the Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless, Assistant Director at St. Vincent de Paul of Baltimore, Program Director at Ohio Valley Goodwill, Grant Manager at Goodwill of Greater Washington and Director of Communications at Greenpeace Ohio. Donald served two terms as President of the board and currently serves as a member of the Board of Directors for the National Coalition for the Homeless, two terms on the Board of Directors for Faces and Voices of Recovery and two terms on the Georgetown Center for Cultural Competency.
Donald Served two terms on The State Coalition on Housing and Homelessness in Ohio, The State of Maryland Drug and Alcohol Policy Council, The Baltimore Ten Year Planning Committee to end Homelessness, The Cincinnati Continuum of Care Board, and Donald was one of only 100 advocates nationally to be invited to the first National Symposium on Homeless Research. Donald testified before committee’s in the 107 th and 108 th Congress. Donald, along with members of the staff’s of the offices of Representatives John Conyers, Julie Carson, Barbara Lee and the staff of NCH, directed the creation and introduction of the “Bringing America Home Act," the most comprehensive legislation to date to address homelessness in America. Donald has served on advisory committees for Presidents Bush, Clinton, Bush II and Obama. In 2005, Donald received a distinguished service award for his work on homelessness from the Congressional Black Caucus. Donald received a second award of Special Recognition from Congress in 2008. In 2011 Donald completed the prestigious American Express leadership Academy.
Donald been interviewed in the printed media, radio, and television on numerous occasions. Donald has been a featured guest on CBS News, ABC News, FOX TV, CNN, MSNBC, and many local stations. Radio appearances have included CBS Radio, NPR, The Tavis Smiley Show, The Tom Joyner Morning Show and local stations throughout the US along with stations in Great Britain, Germany, Canada and Mexico. Donald has been a dinner guest of former President and Senator Bill and Hillary Clinton.
Donald majored in Communications at the City College of Chicago, The University of Cincinnati and Union College and University in Ohio. Donald served as a Journalist in the United States Navy. On a personal note Donald is a stand-up comedian and actor. Donald has performed in five movies and has received a regional Emmy for a role in the movie Open the Sky”. Donald currently lives in Orlando Florida with his beautiful wife Tracy.
Back to top
Karen Ennis: Karen is a Native Washingtonian a mother of 3 and a grandmother.
She grew up middle class her parents were Federal and District Government workers, she went to Catholic schools, graduated from DC Public school and Interior Design school. In 2012 she graduated from Howard University with and BA degree in Interior Design, and is a member of International Golden Key Honour Society.
Karen Ennis worked for many years in retail, Interior Design and as a Architectural drafter for a well known Architectural firm, she was an entrepreneur for 10 years as nail technician in the DC area. Karen has been a member of NCH Speakers Bureau since 2013. "I have been though more struggles most can't deal with, but with God I have been able to over come them."
Today she is also an Adovcate for Sacred Authority, a group of women who have over came drug addiction go on Capitol Hill to get more and better drug treatment programs in DC and also across the country, talking to policy makers to change policies that want to restrict benefits from those who are struggling in these United States.
Karen also has a goal for herself and her youngest daughter. She wants to get her Masters in Interior Design, for her daughter who runs track for her high school and an AAU League, DC United Track Team, become a member of the female track team for the Olympics in 2020 representing DC and the U.S.A.
Back to top
Alan Banks: Born and raised in the D.C. area, Alan married and entered into the Air Force following his graduation from high school. After his father’s passing in 1996, Alan’s depression led him into a downward spiral. In 2004, Alan found himself homeless. During this time, he lived primarily on the streets. Here, Alan experienced both the best and the worst sides of homelessness, neglect and generosity. He says that many people who ignore homeless people simply “don’t know what to do.” After a brief period of living housed in 2006, Alan was injured as a result of neighborhood violence and became unable to work. He was homeless once again, but he knew where to find services this time. Alan was able to find permanent housing through Friendship Place.
Today, Alan works as the coordinator for community engagement at Friendship Place, and he has been reunited with his family. Alan began working with the National Coalition for the Homeless in 2006. Living with depression, he has found speaking to be an “avenue of communication.” Through his own story, Alan enjoys teaching young people that homelessness “can happen to anybody.”
Back to top
Jeffrey Bassett: A native of the D.C. area, Jeffrey attended the Duke Ellington School of the Arts. Following graduation, he sang with various musical groups in the Washington, D.C. area; the genres he covered include funk, R&B, and gospel. Jeffrey was eventually diagnosed with Lupus and, soon after, became homeless. He spent roughly a year rotating between couch surfing and sleeping on the streets. Jeffrey eventually moved into a shelter in 2008 where he stayed for fifteen month while attending day programs at the Father McKenna Center. Through the day program, Jeffrey was able to attend meetings of the Interagency Council on Homelessness. Here, he was granted the opportunity to speak on the topic of the hot water heater at his shelter which had been broken for a month. Within a few days, the water heater was fixed and “you could hear people cheering” at the shelter. Jeffrey has been an advocate ever since.
Today, he is housed through Friendship Place and is an active board member there. Jeffrey began working with the National Coalition for the Homeless in 2012. He enjoys speaking to young people in order to “keep their hearts from getting hard.”
Back to top
James Davis: Born and raised in Charleston, South Carolina, James earned an Associate’s degree from DeVry Institute in Electronics and Computer Technology. Shortly thereafter, he moved to Greenbelt, Maryland to take a job working on the space shuttle program. A self described workaholic, James later worked for BAE Systems, a job that would take him around the world. Despite his success, the passing of both his parents in a short period of time brought depression and stress upon James. This led to the eventual separation from his wife and his experience with homelessness. He couch surfed with relatives for a while before living outdoors. Hearing the horror stories of shelter life, James was reluctant to seek help. He eventually sought shelter at the Central Union Mission giving him a sense of consistency before finding stable housing in 2007.
James has worked as a Street Sense vendor since 2003, and he is currently the vendor advisory team chairman. In addition, he does part time quality assurance work for a subcontractor on the Metro Silver Line. James began working with the National Coalition for the Homeless in 2003. He enjoys “making an impression on people who may have preconceived notions of those experiencing homelessness” and “showing people it can happen to anyone.”
Back to top
John Harrison, Jr.: Born in Detroit, John moved with his family to the D.C. area when he was ten. Upon graduating from high school, he began working and did quite well for himself. John had a car and his own apartment. Eventually, around age forty, he experienced a series of misfortunes. John lost his job when his company was bought out, and, soon after, his home burned down. He stayed in his car for a period of time before he began living on the streets. For John, homelessness was an exhausting experience. “It was hard to look beyond whatever day it was.” Surprisingly, “Snowmageddon,” Washington’s snow storm in the winter of 2010, gave John some traction. He began shoveling snow, and, with his earnings, John was able to rent himself a place to stay. With a consistent place to stay at night, he was also able to take better care of himself. Today, he is underemployed, but employed with a roof over his head. John began working with the National Coalition for the Homeless in 2003. He enjoys “changing attitudes” towards homelessness and finds his work with the speakers’ bureau to be a “reminder of his good fortune.”
Back to top
Jeffrey McNeil: Jeff was born in Ohio and raised in New Jersey. For a long time, he had his own apartment and worked full time. However, he lived paycheck to paycheck and eventually began to experience depression. Jeff grew sicker and soon lost his job and his home becoming homeless in 2005. During his experience with homelessness, Jeff drifted around often staying in tunnels and shelters. He came to Washington, D.C. in 2007 and began selling Street Sense, D.C.’s street newspaper. However, Jeff was still sick, and he was ultimately diagnosed with bipolar disorder. One day, one of his customers offered to help him find treatment. Jeff accepted, and he began to take better care of himself, saving his money and renting himself a place to stay. Today, Jeff is housed. He still sells newspapers in addition to his job with an independent broadcasting company. Jeff began working with the National Coalition for the Homeless in 2008. He enjoys sharing his story with young people and teaching them homelessness “can happen to anyone.”
Back to top
Eric Sheptock: In 1988, shortly after graduating high school, Eric took a job as a freight handler at Shands Hospital in Gainesville, Florida. After six years at Shands, Eric had a falling out with his boss and walked off the job. He decided to move back to his home state of New Jersey but eventually ran out of money. It was here that he experienced his first bout with homelessness. In 2005, after eleven years of working low wage jobs, he traveled to Washington, D.C., to protest the Iraq war. While in Washington, Eric stayed at the Franklin Shelter which would eventually close in 2008. During that time, he joined a group of men in a long fight with the D.C. government to keep the shelter open. This would eventually lead to Eric’s rise as a homeless advocate in the D.C. area.
Today, Eric resides at the Community for Creative Non-Violence, the largest shelter in DC. Eric began speaking for the National Coalition for the Homeless in 2006 and enjoys educating and dispelling stereotypes. He hopes that his work with the speakers’ bureau inspires young people to careers working with those experiencing homelessness.
Back to top
George Siletti: In 1972, after living in foster care for seven years, George became an emancipated minor at the age of sixteen. Here, he experienced homelessness for the first time. George began hitch-hiking across the United States, and, over the next thirty plus years, he traveled to every state with the exception of Alaska. With no job skills, identification, address, or phone, George found it difficult to find work in the places he traveled to. While living in Florida, George experienced an excessive level of discrimination. There, he says, “The homeless are often arrested for crimes as simple as jaywalking or littering.” After working in Baltimore, Maryland, for a period of time, he came to Washington, D.C. in 1996. In 2003, George was able to find permanent housing through Friendship Place.
Today, he serves as a community representative at Friendship Place. George began working with the National Coalition for the Homeless in 1996. He enjoys educating people of all ages about homelessness through his story.
Back to top
Steve Thomas: A native Washingtonian, Steve got involved with drugs and alcohol when he was young. He enlisted in the Air Force Reserve at twenty one, but Steve continued to struggle with addiction and eventually lost his home. He was fifty one when he first experienced homelessness in 2005. Steve says, “As I walked down Pennsylvania Avenue, I saw people on every single bench, and then it hit me: ‘They’re homeless, and I am too.’” He found a bench and stayed there for eighteen months before he met a volunteer doctor working on a Homeless Care and Outreach Van. He asked Steve, “Would you allow me to help you?” and Steve said yes. He spent the next twenty eight days in rehab, and, today, Steve is seven years clean and sober. Steve began working with the National Coalition for the Homeless in 2007. He finds speaking to be a “vehicle of expression” and enjoys watching how his story can affect change in young people.
Back to top
Dana Woolfolk: A native Washingtonian, Dana was raised in a loving home, but he fell victim to a lifestyle consumed with drugs and alcohol. “I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s and in my social circle, recreational drug use was acceptable. Had I known that I would become a full blown addict I would never have tried that first one.” For many years, Dana owned and operated a successful plumbing, heating and electrical contracting company. “After a while, I couldn’t work. I needed to devote all my time and attention to getting and using drugs.” Finally, Dana lost everything including the close ties he had with his family and friends. He ended up living on the streets of D.C. and Northern Virginia for over three years. Dana found help through a rehabilitation program and was eventually placed in transitional housing before buying his own home.
Today, he is a therapist for the City of Alexandria Department of Community and Human Services where he has worked since 2002. Dana began working with the National Coalition for the Homeless in 2003. He enjoys “having the opportunity to answer the audiences questions about what is was like to be homeless and share ways that they can best assist those who are experiencing homelessness.”
Back to top
The standard format for a “Faces of Homelessness” presentation includes:
- Multi-media slide show or video about homelessness in America
- Moderator to present the facts about homelessness
- Up to three panelists who are or have been homeless
- Open question and answer session
Afterwards, the panelists will offer ways for people to get involved, from volunteering at shelters to influencing legislation.
While we do follow a standard format, we are very flexible to fit the needs of the group. Since 1999, the DC-based Speakers' Bureau has given over over 3,000 presentations, speaking to over 50,000 people.
The lack of interaction between different groups of our society, combined with impersonal or inaccurate descriptions of homelessness posed by the media and public officials, contributes to a distancing of those who have housing from those who do not. As a result, homelessness is perceived as an abstract social problem. We believe the Speakers’ Bureau is an important part of the fight to end homelessness in America as it links the many different levels of our society together and challenges commonly held misconceptions. Our “Faces of Homelessness” Speakers’ Bureau accomplishes this by:
- Putting a human face on homelessness.
- Creating better understanding on a very difficult and complex problem one person at a time.
- Challenging the myths of homelessness with the actual realities of homelessness.
- Promoting, supporting, and facilitating dialogue between housed and homeless Americans to effectively address this growing problem.
- Building public awareness of homelessness on a local and national level.
This unique and necessary approach to addressing homelessness establishes a significant platform for those whom homelessness affects directly to talk personally about their experiences while advocating for themselves and others. Ultimately, The Faces of Homelessness Speakers’ Bureau seeks to build bridges with the rest of society so that we may work cooperatively to end this disgrace called homelessness.
The National Coalition for the Homeless’ “Faces of Homelessness” Speakers’ Bureau conducts presentations at schools, places of worship, conferences, for-profit businesses, non-profit organizations, and special events both in and out of the Greater Washington DC metropolitan area.
If you are interested in bringing the Faces of Homelessness Panel to your school or organization, please fill out a request form for the Washington, DC area or to bring the Bureau to your location outside of the DC-Metro area. Once NCH receives your event form, a staff member will follow up with you to confirm that we are available at the date and time you have requested.
- Lesson Plan - Beyond Stigma and Stereotypes: Understanding Homelessness (ADL)
Faces of Homelessness II
Downloadable/Printable Request Forms:
Click here to request a presentation outside of the DC Metro area>>Each $75 donation will bring a speaker to a school or organization that cannot otherwise afford to set up their own Faces of Homelessness presentation. Utilize our donation button and write "sponsorship program" on the online form.
DONATE TO OUR SPONSORSHIP PROGRAM:
If you forward the receipt for your donation to firstname.lastname@example.org, along with a mailing address, NCH will send you a Faces of Homelessness Speakers' Bureau 20th Anniversary poster!
Tell us what you think:Have you attended a presentation? If so, please let us know what you thought by taking this quick survey.
Don't forget to like NCH on Facebook!
Speakers' Bureau Nationwide: