Homeless men and poetry? You bet!


There’s a stereotype about homeless men, one that certainly does not involve creative writing and poetry.

So – what if we told you that some of the homeless men residing in our Men’s Service Center (MSC) are keeping spiral notebooks by their side, capturing their thoughts in writing during the week, and sharing them in the form of poems and stories during a Wednesday evening class? You may find that hard to picture, but it couldn’t be more real!

The class is taught by a student from University of Central Florida, Shayna “Simba” Castano, who is a poet and spoken word artist herself. Shayna has come each week this semester to coach our budding poets as part of a UCF program. She has become so invested in our men that she hopes to continue her endeavor long after the semester ends. She’s even pursuing financial support for several related projects she has in mind.

DSC_0160The group of MSC writers is small but mighty. They’ve even given themselves a name – Men Capable of Survival (MCS). One of the men, a graphic artist, has designed a logo. All are hoping to read their works in the community at one of their instructor’s favorite coffee houses. They are pretty excited about that opportunity and invite constructive comments so they can be ready for their debut in the not-too-distant future!

Last night, the MCS at our MSC (how’s that for a twist?) read some of their works aloud, not shy at all to share even with a visitor in the room. What they wrote was from the heart; sometimes “heavy”; and about their life experiences, memories of grandma, and home. The state of the world, hope for the future, and love ran through their verses, as well as the unique personification of structures such as a boardwalk.

The students learned from each other and Shayna provided thoughtful suggestions. Then she gave everyone a treat…a passionate reading of a poem she’d recently penned about Parramore, its history and people, the Coalition, and the changing landscape.

As she read to her class, Shayna’s heart and soul were evident. One thing’s for sure – this creative writer truly practices what she teaches. No wonder our homeless men are becoming poets!