Like many cities across the country, Sacramento, Calif. is grappling with an affordable housing crisis. But there isn’t a place for diverse community members to come together and find common ground.
CapRadio spent the past year digging into the history, politics, and economics of housing affordability in California’s capital. We produced “The View From Here: Place And Privilege,” an eight-part podcast, hour-long radio documentary, and online community voice platform. To go beyond sharing content on-air and online, CapRadio organized Story Circles that brought diverse residents together in intimate settings to talk about housing.
A Story Circle is a group of people sitting together and sharing personal experiences on a theme guided by a facilitator. Participants were invited to tell a story about when having a home made a difference in their lives. This deceptively simple process opened them up to each other’s struggles, fears, and dreams, creating an emotional intimacy and social bonding among people who usually wouldn’t be in the same room. Afterwards, the group explored what they heard and what it meant.
CapRadio partnered with 12 community organizations to co-host six Story Circles. Community partners brought homeless and low-income renters, social service providers, affordable housing advocates, POC activists, and affordable housing developers to the gatherings. CapRadio brought affluent white homeowners representative of our core audience. We held these gatherings at affordable housing complexes, community centers, and public schools in low-income neighborhoods throughout Sacramento.
Story Circle groups were kept small to promote intimacy and honest storytelling. We set the chairs in a circle, with flowers and candles at the center, to spark interpersonal engagement and convey a beautiful and inviting atmosphere.
The Story Circles were 2.5 hours long. They began with 30 minutes to mingle, share a meal, and participate in CapRadio’s story booth — a mobile portrait studio where guests could have a professional photo taken and write down their views regarding housing. We collected the images and photos, sent participants a complimentary copy of their portrait, and posted them with text to the Community Voice section of the Place and Privilege website, Instagram Feed, and Facebook page.
During the Story Circle, participants shared, in turn, a personal story illuminating the role of housing in their lives. Then they broke into trios to discuss themes and patterns. The full group reconvened to identify insights, epiphanies, and action steps. To close, participants were asked to reflect on what they were taking away from the experience, which was recorded, and to complete a brief, anonymous survey. We offered everyone a flower from the bouquet and mobile phone wallets with personalized thank-you cards tucked inside as gifts.
Each event cost about $400 for food, flowers, supplies, and childcare.
Read a commentary by CapRadio’s Jesikah Maria Ross.