How Singing In A Choir Helped Homeless People In San Diego Find Their Voice

She went into a church across the street to charge her phone, and that was when she spotted them ― several dozen people getting ready for their weekly choir rehearsal. “I was like, ‘Sign me up right away,’” she said.

Joining a choir had been on Rydiander’s bucket list for years. But the choir rehearsal she stumbled upon that day wasn’t just any rehearsal ― it was for Voices Of Our City Choir, a choir created for people experiencing homelessness in San Diego. Rydiander, at that point, had been homeless for about two months after losing her place to live and struggling with alcohol addiction.

Voices Of Our City, which sings everything from “Over The Rainbow” to Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On,” was co-founded in the summer of 2016 by professional guitarist Steph Johnson, 38, who set out to do something ― anything ― to address the increasingly evident homelessness crisis in San Diego, where she’d lived her whole life. From 2016 to 2017, the number of people living in tents and hand-built structures in downtown San Diego increased by 104 percent.

“Homelessness had just exploded,” Johnson told HuffPost. “So many more people were on the street. … I saw all these people getting arrested, and all their things getting thrown away.”

It all started for Johnson when she began going out to meet people living on the streets, playing music with them when the opportunity arose. “Just kind of hanging. Getting to know people,” she said. In doing so, she realized she had a lot of misconceptions about what it meant to be homeless. Many of the people she was meeting had jobs that they’d get up and go to every day, and many had kids ― some of whom were living with them on the streets.

Inspired by a woman she met who was part of a choir for homeless people in Chicago, Johnson decided to set up something similar in her home city. She sought out a church willing to host the weekly choir practices, and Voices Of Our City Choir was born. Read more here.