About the Project

Homelessness doesn’t look like any one thing. Describing what it entails is difficult because experiences of homelessness are as varied as the people who live through it. How, then, to fairly and accurately represent those living on the street?

This was the challenge that Alison Turner and Blake Sanz faced in creating this series. As long-time volunteers at homeless shelters in Denver, they wanted to give shape to the lives of those they served, while also being faithful to the diversity of experience they’ve witnessed.

The result is When you are homeless, which tells the stories of eight people who’ve found themselves on the streets in one form or another, for some amount of time. Alison and Blake, who interviewed clients of homeless shelters in Denver, also discuss themes emerging from those conversations: the role that art can play as a coping mechanism, what loneliness and companionship look like under these circumstances, the frustrating ways that logistical concerns put up barriers to upward mobility.

The stories they were told are heart-breaking and dramatic. In the same breath, they’re funny and wise. If you’ve ever wondered what life is like for those living on the street, this podcast, while it won’t provide a full answer, will give many revealing examples.

Alison Turner is a PhD Candidate in Literary Studies at the University of Denver interested in community literacy, historical fiction of the American Old West, immigrant and refugee literature, and archives. She enjoys spending large amounts of time outdoors hiking, snowboarding, walking, and waiting for buses. When she travels she insists on visiting public libraries. She has worked with writers at The Gathering Place, a day shelter for women in Denver, for nearly three years. When you are homeless is her first podcast.

Blake Sanz is a writer and professor at the University of Denver. He’s received fellowships and funding from Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, Sewanee Writers’ Conference, the Sozopol Fiction Seminars in Bulgaria, and other residencies and organizations. For 10 years, he has staffed a writing center at the Saint Francis Center, a day shelter for men and women in the Denver area. When you are homeless is his first podcast.