ECS-NJ’s 3rd Summit on Building & Equipping the Beloved Community will feature well-known advocate for housing justice DeBorah Gilbert White, PhD, who herself lived for a time in a homeless shelter in Wilmington, Delaware. Our Faith. Our Advocacy: Homeless Rights and Housing Justice is coming Oct. 16 from ECS-NJ. Register now.
DeBorah Gilbert White, Ph.D. is the Founder and Coordinator of HerStory Ensemble, LLC. This community-based advocacy, artistic, economic development and empowerment organization is an outgrowth of her experience with homelessness, work with its emerging issues, and understanding of the prevalent risk of homelessness for many women confronting various life circumstances and situations. Describing her experience of homelessness as the “perfect storm” DeBorah has not allowed the experience of homelessness to defeat her, but rather has chosen to use it to give voice to those who feel disempowered and to dispel myths and stereotypes about homelessness through awareness, education, and advocacy. Her professional training as a social psychologist, years of social justice advocacy, and faith provides unique insight to the work of eradicating homelessness.
In her role as an associate professor teaching psychology, sociology, and cultural diversity courses, DeBorah challenges others to examine their perceptions about homelessness and people who are identified as homeless. This is particularly thought-provoking when students learn that she once taught her online university classes from the community lounge while a resident at a women’s shelter in Wilmington, DE. People experiencing homelessness come from all walks of life. For this reason, DeBorah does not view her experience as unique, but recognizes her willingness to talk about it expands perspectives and helps to unpack prejudices and dismantle stereotypes.
In 2012 the question was asked, “Is there a Homeless Persons Bill of Rights for the State of Delaware?” The answer was no. The question was prompted by what DeBorah witnessed, heard, and experienced in community related to homelessness and housing status, and the need to support the empowerment of people experiencing homelessness. Her experience of homelessness became a call to action. It ignited collaborative efforts among various agencies and groups for development and passage of a Homeless Bill of Rights in Delaware to address the treatment of people experiencing homelessness.
In 2019 Dr. Gilbert White was appointed to the Presidential Deep Poverty Initiative of the American Psychological Association (APA). In this capacity she served as a liaison for the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues (SPSSI). The appointment brought her voice of lived experience and advocacy to the important work of addressing poverty, particularly homelessness, by working to change attitudes, perceptions, practices, and policies in addressing it.
In 2021 the pursuit of a Homeless Bill of Rights for Delaware continues. DeBorah collaborates with others nationally and in Delaware to stop the criminalization of homelessness, promote homeless prevention by providing right to counsel for people facing eviction, and protecting voting rights for people without a permanent address. Among these groups and organizations are the National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH), the National Homelessness Law Center (previously the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty), H. O. M.E.S. Campaign, and the Delaware Continuum of Care. She (HerStory Ensemble) served as a member of the steering committee for the national campaign “Housing Not Handcuffs” that challenged oppressive practices and laws connected to homelessness. DeBorah is a member of the National Coalition for the Homeless’ Faces of Homelessness Speakers Bureau, and member of the Delaware Continuum of Care Advocacy and Policy Committee. She is the author of “Beyond Charity: A Sojourner’s Reflections On Homelessness, Advocacy, Empowerment and Hope” a memoir scheduled to be released September 2021.