Fighting homelessness with fashion

Published 10:05 pm Thursday, April 9, 2009

Homeless people are just like everyone else.

That’s the message Alecia Gregg wants to drive home. And she’s starting with the young people.

“Homelessness looks just like them,” she said. “It looks just like their families.”

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Traditional families – with a mother, father and children – are the fastest-growing segment of the homeless population, said Gregg. She is the executive director of Our House Families, a nonprofit organization that operates several programs to prevent homelessness and loss of critical utilities for area families.

Gregg hopes to shed some light on the problem of homelessness – and raise some money to help prevent it – tonight.

Our House Families is sponsoring a fashion show at the National Guard Armory at 7 p.m. tonight. Tickets are $5 for students and $7 for non-students. Children 5 and under will be admitted free.

Students from Lakeland and Nansemond River high schools will be modeling the fashions donated by T.J. Maxx and Marshall’s. There also will be soloists, entertainment, a raffle and other activities.

“They’re rehearsed really hard,” Gregg said of the students who will model the clothes. “My whole goal was to get the young people involved.”

During the show, Gregg will share some of the striking statistics about homelessness. More than 1.35 million children are homeless in the United States in any given year – and it is rising every day with the economic situation. Homeless children get sick twice as often as other children. One of Our House Families’ success stories, a 19-year-old who went through the program and now attends Norfolk State University, will tell his experiences of homelessness.

The event will be “as much about the kids as possible,” Gregg said.

“I want to shed some light on it for them,” she said. “Homelessness is not just some person on a park bench, these are kids that go to school with them. There’s not a big sign on them saying ‘I’m a homeless person,’ but they look just like you.”

Gregg eventually hopes to get students from other high schools to participate in the program.

“I’m taking it on the road,” she said. “I’ll take it from here to Oscar Smith to Phoebus because homelessness really doesn’t know borders.”

The money made from ticket sales and sponsorships will support Our House Families’ programs, including the emergency family shelter, food pantries, referral services, and one-time financial assistance services to help avoid essential utility shut-off, eviction or foreclosure.