Homeless Awareness: Extreme Makeover Edition

Telling stories is a powerful way to raise awareness, give insight and move someone to action. If done well, telling a person’s story helps me to identify with them in a new way, to find a place of connection and realize that the acceptance of our stories is the frontline of offering grace and redemption to one another. If I know you, if I accept your story, I can do something–more importantly, we can do something.

I learned that the season premiere of ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition tells the story of Barbara Marshall, a former Navy Chaplain, who opened her family’s Fayetteville, NC home to house and support homeless female veterans and their children. Enlisting the aid of the sizable military community in the area along with involvement by First Lady Michelle Obama, the usual cast of community members and sponsoring companies, the show does its magic by tearing down Marshall’s deteriorating house and replacing it with a building with space better suited to her mission. The new facility at Steps and Stages Jubilee House is, in true EM:HE style, spectacular.

As the premier, which will air on Sunday, September 25, progresses in its familiar way, it allows a glimpse of the needs and challenges of America’s female service veterans. I found myself wanting more of their stories and less of the albeit endearing banter of the EM:HE cast. The stories of the women living in the Jubilee House intertwine the serious notes of the difficulty of transition to civilian life after being in battle in Iraq and Afghanistan, the realities of single parenthood, economic hardship, transferring military skills to a challenging job market, and more. I also wanted to know more about the faith aspect of life at Jubilee House, considering Marshall’s background as a Navy Chaplain and the obvious hat tip to biblical principles in the name she’s given to her program.

I hope that other programing will pick up the theme and give a bigger picture of the facts surrounding homelessness as it involves women veterans. I don’t know, and the show’s entertainment format didn’t provide, answers to the questions I found myself asking, such as, How widespread is this? What other services are available? What kind of transition assistance is there for those returning to civilian life?

All that said, it’s an important story being told on an high-impact stage. I know I want to know more after watching the preview episode I was provided, and I hope it will be more than a patriotic tear-jerker (you know you can’t watch EM:HE without tissues, right?) for many people.

*disclosure – I was offered only the opportunity to watch the premiere episode before it aired and was not paid for writing this post.


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