The Oral History of Homelessness includes the following collections: 

Homeless Is My Address, Not My Name

This collection consists of several hundred oral histories that document homelessness in Minnesota through first-person narratives and portrait photography.  People describe their current living situation, their family, friends, jobs, and their plans and dreams. Portraits were taken collaboratively with people, so that they’re shown the way they choose to be, in contrast to typical “homeless” images that show people in vulnerable moments. Oral histories were provided by people in several Minnesota locations - urban, suburban, and rural - between 2008 and 2012. A traveling audio-visual exhibit was created for participants to share their stories in their own words.

Not a Stranger Here: Minnesota Communities Confront Homelessness

This collection of oral histories documents how Minnesotans responded to homelessness in the 1970s - 1980s. They provide insight into the multiple factors that led to the increase in homelessness during that time, and how communities responded with the creation of shelters and affordable housing programs, community organizing and protesting, and critical changes in public policy and legislation. Interviews were conducted in partnership with the Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless throughout Minnesota in 2015.

Workers in Homelessness in Three Midwestern Cities

This collection of interviews and documentary photographs depicts the work of people employed in providing direct service for people experiencing homelessness in Chicago, Illinois, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, and Bismarck, North Dakota. A project of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, this work was conducted in 2016. The materials from this project will be accessible online through the Library of Congress here in 2019.


Project Director Margaret Miles has worked in development and communications in nonprofits to end homelessness for more than two decades. These oral history collections are envisioned as a collaborative effort to ensure the historical documention of homelessness by those closest to it. In support of her writing and documentation work on this and other subjects, Margaret has been a recipient of an Archie Green Fellowship with the American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress, a Bush Foundation Fellowship in the Arts, a Loft-McKnight Fellowship, Jerome Foundation Travel and Study grants, and Minnesota State Arts Board grants.

 
A man sits for a portrait by photographer Joey McLeister.

A man sits for a portrait by photographer Joey McLeister.

St. Stephen’s in Minneapolis responds to the early 1980’s increase in homelessness.

St. Stephen’s in Minneapolis responds to the early 1980’s increase in homelessness.

Program manager Beatriz Albelo laughs with residents of a supportive housing program for youth in Chicago.

Program manager Beatriz Albelo laughs with residents of a supportive housing program for youth in Chicago.

These projects have benefitted from the support and wisdom of St. Stephen’s Human Services, the Family Housing Fund, Greater Minnesota Housing Fund, Corporation for Supportive Housing, Minnesta Coalition for the Homeless, by the State of Minnesota through a grant funded by an appropriation to the Minnesota Historical Society from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund, the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, key advisor Shawna Nelson, photographers Joey McLeister, Kris Drake, Barclay Horner, Max Haynes, and Cathy ten Broeke, and so many invaluable volunteers.