May 17, 2011; Source: | They have no homes, but they have a lot to say about the hardships they’ve endured in their lives, and a program in Cincinnati high schools is helping them share their stories. Women Writing for a Change currently serves about 50 homeless girls who attend four high schools in the Cincinnati Public Schools system.

“What this group offers is a therapeutic environment for them to share what they’ve been through and to be validated,” said Rebeka Beach, adolescent homeless education liaison for Project Connect, which supports homeless students in the Cincinnati Public Schools, and which contracts with the writing program. “The girls are so respectful. They support each other. And you can almost see the stress leaving them.” According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, the numbers of homeless teens in the city’s schools has jumped some 23 percent in the past five years to about 822 from 667.

One 18-year-old senior, identified only as Sacoiya to protect her privacy, says writing has been the only way to express her feelings. The newspaper reports that Sacoiya, who is heading to Shawnee State University in Ohio to study art education and English education next year, has “spent years bouncing from home to home – her father’s, her best friend’s, her sister’s. Her father was neglectful and abusive . . . Her mother didn’t pay attention to her.” She said what she appreciated most about sharing her stories with other girls in the program is that “they didn’t judge me. They didn’t say I was lying. They didn’t say I made up stories. They listened to what I had to say.”

To mark their work over the past year the young writers contributed to a just-published anthology of poems and short stories that carries the simple title, “Our Stories.” The 70-page collection was underwritten by ArtsWave and the Ohio Arts Council.—Bruce Trachtenberg