A local residential facility for men in need of housing and supportive services was selected as the site where a new literary program was launched.
Maurice Henderson, along with other artists, poets and authors, brought the initiative to Outley House, which is located at 6901 Woodland Ave. in Southwest Philadelphia.
Recently, the men of Outley House gathered in the multi-purpose room where Henderson uses poetry to teach the elements of literacy to the residents.
Henderson said the decision to host the program began with a meeting with Resources for Human Development (RHD) and an editorial meeting at One Step Away Newspaper, a publication for and about the homeless population in America.
“There were some interesting people there,” Henderson said. “What they said was that they needed me to do some work in the community and I said ‘tell me where to go and what you need and I’ll provide the service and volunteerism.’”
The newly created four-week program was launched at Outley House last Monday.
“I decided to kick this program off at the Outley House because I wanted it to be interactive,” Henderson said. “I wanted them to see that if I can perform, I’m going to teach you how you can read and write; if I perform, I can teach you about nouns, people, places and things; if I perform, I can teach you about verbs — action.”
The residents of Outley House listened attentively as Henderson performed some spoken word for the men and allowed guests on his panel to do the same.
Larry Adams, who is the community relations representative for Outley House, has the task of creating positive relationships with the residents and the surrounding community.
“I actually advocate for the consumers here out here in the community,” he said. “I connect them [residents] with community leaders, community organizations, social service providers and things of that nature, things that help them to build character, become self-sufficient and economically empowered.”
The men of Outley House are often in need of a variety of supportive services along with a place to stay to help them become independent. For this reason, Outley House has a computer room, along with an employment counselor, who visits the facility once a week.
“We also go out and help different leaders in the community as far as volunteering,” Adams said.
The literacy program is part of the National Give Back for Kids Campaign founded by Hosea J. Givan II.
Givan said Henderson invited him to Outley House to give the residents a message.
“The message that he wanted me to bring was the significance of giving back to our young people and making everyone realize that they have a contribution to make, regardless of their current condition,” he said.
During the program, Henderson told the men about his past stating that he was once considered a special education student in a system that overlooked his talents and abilities.
He later went on to earn his doctorate and is now a published author of over 25 books, and is a professor at Temple University and the University of Pennsylvania.
“I’m not supposed to be here,” said Henderson about his accomplishments. “I’m not supposed to be here intellectually; I’m not supposed to be here socially; but I’m here and I’m going to make the best of it.”