Becoming a Fifty Sandwiches volunteer by conducting your own interviews can be a gratifying experience for both you and the individual experiencing homelessness. While the interviewee is given a rare chance to share their story and be heard, you get a first-hand opportunity to gain valuable insight into the personal experiences, struggles, and causes of homelessness.
You Will Need:
- Local Shelter's Contact Information
- Smartphone or Camera
- Recording Device or App
For safety purposes, do not approach strangers on the street. Instead, reach out to local shelters in your area to let them know about the project and your interest in interviewing some of their residents. It’s important to remember to respect the privacy of both the people working in the shelter and the residents. Be sure you have full permission from both the shelter and the interviewee to record the discussion and photograph the subject before proceeding forward with an interview. If they do not wish to be photographed, do not fret! ‘Anonymous’ interviews can be just as heartfelt and eye-opening. in your area to let them know about the project and your interest in interviewing some of their residents. It’s important to remember to respect the privacy of both the people working in the shelter and the residents. Be sure you have full permission from both the shelter and the interviewee to record the discussion and photograph the subject before proceeding forward with an interview. If they do not wish to be photographed, do not fret! ‘Anonymous’ interviews can be just as heartfelt and eye-opening.
Always remember that these people are in the midst of facing incredible hardships; empathy and
understanding on your behalf is absolutely essential!
After getting their consent, turn on your recording device and get their name, age, and location. These discussions can be a nerve-wracking, emotional process for both parties. After all, your goal is to encourage people in great distress to open up about their outstanding struggles to a complete stranger. Some people are more than happy to share while others may be more reserved. You need to be willing to dive outside of your comfort zone while being careful not to force them to leave theirs. Be mindful of your body language and eye contact. Provide them your undivided attention. They deserve it.
A list of questions is helpful, but not required. The goal is to use their answers as jumping-off points to guide the direction of the discussion. Look for the story behind the philosophy and the philosophy behind the story, always. Focus on building a bond and never be afraid to ask the tough questions and dig deep.
1. How long have you been homeless?
2. How did you end up homeless?
3. What is your greatest struggle in life right now?
4. How has your experience changed your perception of homelessness?
5. How would you say society sees homelessness?
6. If you could tell society one thing about the homeless experience what would it be?
Snap a few photos from varying angles when the interview is complete. Thank them for their time and demonstrate your full appreciation for telling their story. Just because life’s hardships are essential to discuss, doesn’t mean they are easy to share.
When you are back home, transcribe the recorded interview and remove filler content that you feel takes away from the story. Be careful when paraphrasing to maintain accuracy and avoid reframing the context of their words!
There are three different options for you to submit your interview to be published on the Fifty Sandwiches website and social platforms:
- (Recommended) Post the interview to your Instagram page with the hashtag #FiftySandwiches and tag @FiftySandwiches in the post.
- Submit the interview at FiftySandwiches.com using this form.
- Email Info@FiftySandwiches.com with a copy of the transcript and photos.
Whether you are a college student or just a motivated member of the public, we are always in search of Fifty Sandwiches Ambassadors to go out and conduct their own interviews. As a 501(c)3 nonprofit, volunteering for Fifty Sandwiches looks great on a resume and Fifty Sandwiches will ALWAYS be happy to be used a reference for your volunteer efforts.
Sharing the stories of America’s homeless is essential in reshaping the way our society views the issue of homelessness. Beyond that, forming personal connections and hearing the stories of struggling strangers is an incredible and mutually beneficial experience.