The phrase “writing project” is quick to evoke a groan. (This is true even for those who write for a living—I would know.) But the truth is that creative pursuit is the tip-top of the pyramid of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs—a psychological theory that comprises a five-tier model of human needs—and a whole bunch of us never make it there. This, in part, is why Denver-based nonprofit Lighthouse Writers Workshop started an outreach branch to connect with communities that often don’t have access to creative programs—like children whose school arts funding had been cut, the incarcerated, and people facing extreme poverty and homelessness.

Lighthouse’s Hard Times Writing Workshop, a weekly creative meet-up geared specifically toward people experiencing short- or long-term homelessness and/or extreme poverty, was started in 2016. It quickly garnered a handful of repeat regulars—and spread from just one location (the Denver Public Library) to three (the Arvada Library and the Gathering Place, an LGBTQ-friendly day shelter for women and children). “The workshops are an outlet for people, who may not normally get to, to talk about challenges and their feelings,” says Corey Dahl, Lighthouse’s communications coordinator. “It’s a chance to escape and create some art for a couple hours a week.”

To showcase the incredible work that’s been created through the Hard Times workshop, Lighthouse is partnering with Stories on Stage—a live-performance-meets-literature company—for a dramatic reading. The open-to-the-public event, “Voices from the Edge,” will feature about 16 poems, short stories, and memoir entries created by Hard Times’ participants, read by two Stories on Stage actors. In the mix is a small selection of pieces from Writing To Be Free, another Lighthouse writing workshop for women who are transitioning from incarceration to life outside. According to Dahl, the evening’s subject matter will “lean toward heavier topics, but definitely include some lighter readings that find the humor in life.”

In all, the free evening of storytelling invites listeners to see the writers as more than the hardships they face. “We’re really hoping to breakdown stereotypes about people experiencing homelessness and people who have been in prison,” says Dahl. “It’s important to see this community as thoughtful, creative people, and this reading really does this.”

After the readings, there will be a 30- to 45-minute reception for attendees, actors, and workshop participants to mingle and discuss the reading. If attending this type of thing piques your interest at all—you should go. “It’s huge for the writers. I spoke with one participant recently, who was beyond thrilled to be part of this—to be taken seriously as an artist and as a person.”

If you go: Voices from the Edge is happening at the McNichols Civic Center Building on Friday, April 6 from 7 to 9 p.m.

Jerilyn Forsythe
Jerilyn Forsythe
Jerilyn Forsythe is a freelance writer and editor, and 5280's former digital associate editor. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter @jlforsyt.