What Will We Do With the Homeless?

What Will We Do With the Homeless?

By Ed Snodderly

Vol. 16, No. 1, 1994, pp. 14-15

ED SNODDERLY: Joyce Brookshire is a songwriter and singer whose family comes from north Georgia. Joyce started writing songs when she was ten years old; as a child she sang with her family, mostly in church. She told me she was a shy child, and making up songs gave her an outlet to express herself. Joyce’s family moved to the Atlanta area and settled in a neighborhood called Cabbagetown, made up of mountain people who migrated to Atlanta looking for work, which they found in the mills. For the past twenty years Joyce has worked in the Cabbagetown community. Through her music and community-based work she became involved with the Tennessee-based Highlander Center in the mid-1970s. In 1978 she was on the road with Guy Carawan, touring the country raising money for the Center. Joyce wrote the song “The Man On The Mountain” for Myles Horton and she sang it at the gathering honoring the legendary Highlander founder in May 1990.

When the announcement came that Atlanta would be the host of the 1996 Olympics, many thoughts raced through Joyce Brookshire’s mind. Earlier, when Atlanta hosted the Democratic Convention, she observed what the city had done with its homeless population: “They blocked off the downtown area labeling it a Hospitality Zone. The homeless were not allowed in this area. As a matter of fact, they bused the homeless away from the area.” Joyce’s song, “What Will We Do With the Homeless,” voices her fear that Atlanta will establish a statewide hospitality zone when the Olympics come to town.

A collection of Joyce’s songs can be found on her 1977 Foxfire Records release North Georgia Mountains. This album can be ordered from 230 Carroll Street, Atlanta, GA 30312. Joyce continues her work with The Cabbagetown Revitalization and Future Trust, a land trust established to build low- and moderate-income housing, and she keeps on writing beautiful, melodic mountain songs.

JOYCE BROOKSHIRE: “I wrote this song in 1990 when I heard the announcement that Atlanta would host the ’96 Olympics. Four years later there is still no clearcut answer to my question. However, new ordinances have been written by the Atlanta City Council, establishing a Hospitality Zone where the homeless are strongly urged not to be, and an ordinance that allows anyone walking through a parking lot to be arrested if they have no car parked there. Very little has been done by the city to create low-income housing for the homeless. This past summer I had an opportunity to sing my song for then-Mayor Maynard Jackson. He was not amused.”

“What Will We Do With the Homeless” is available on MEZZANINE, a new recording by Elise Witt. To order, send $15 for CD or $10 for cassette to EMWorld Records, P.O. Box 116, Decatur, GA 30031.

Snodderly is a musician with The Brother Boys Band and an actor with The Road Company Theater of Johnson City, Tennessee. His notes are reprinted from Now and Then, a journal from and about Appalachia.