It gives us great pleasure to finally share Tammy Karuza’s story with you all!! Her activist approach in her writing has inspired us, and we hope it will you too.

Tammy is newer to the Washington D.C. area, but working with Street Sense has allowed her to reconnect with her passion and gift as a writer. She feels as though God has called her to write about the experiences she is having as a homeless woman and use her gift to reach others. We hope you will enjoy hearing her recite “Faith Forward” an original poem she has written and has yet to put in the paper.

If you would like to know more about Tammy and her poetry, let us know! She is eager to share her work and have conversations with as many people as possible. (

Humbly – Abby


We must never lose infinite hope” – Martin Luther King Jr.

A major element of this project will be reflecting on the experiences I am having and the progress of this campaign and adventure. What I would like to state “right of the bat” is — I’m learning.

Having started the process of building trust and getting to know a few of the incredibly resilient Street Sense vendors, I am totally confident that I am in the right place at the right time. I have never felt so fulfilled, honored, and humbled all at once. The people I have met are inspiring and have already made a place in the person I know I am growing and maturing to be. That being said- this past week has been many things…

Walking to the Eastern Market with Johnnie last Saturday to do our first interview with Philip Black was a rush of excitement and eagerness. We had tested our equipment at home with a friend and had already touched base with Philip who had eagerly accepted our invitation to spend some time with him that afternoon. We had a wonderful time watching him work and seeing him interact with so many people; and our first interview with him was truly a success! Walking home we felt fulfilled and proud of ourselves for accomplishing our first interview. So, I go to plug in my camera to my computer and download the videos when I felt a sudden urge of panic… no audio. Apparently we had forgotten to make sure our external mic was working as we began shooting the interview… big oops. After a few minutes of panic and embarrassment, Johnnie managed to calm me down and we decided we would return to the Eastern Market the next day to ask for a re-do.

So we headed back to the Eastern Market the next day, found Philip, apologized, got a hug, and did a re-do. Already I noticed a huge change in myself while I interacted with Philip. I found the cadence of our conversation to be much smoother. Philip was also much less distracted and comfortable knowing what was coming. (Don’t forget to check out the video)

Something I had thought of prior to this experience and through my studies of leadership and anthropology was reciprocity. The term was first introduced to me two years about in my Introduction to Cultural Anthropology course that I took with Professor Richard Dillon at Hobart and William Smith Colleges. I remember so vividly the idea of building trust and rapport with the people you are interacting with and the importance and need for a sense of mutual reciprocity. Which is essentially developing a relationship where both parties benefit from the other.

When approaching vendors I begin by telling them that this project is about them… not me, not my school… them. As a token of gratitude I always make sure to bring a homemade lunch for each of my informants that consists of: a sandwich, piece of fruit, granola bar, and a bottle of water at minimum. Sometimes I find myself having to explain why this project has so much potential for these individuals…But it’s caught on like wildfire! Philip introduced us to two other vendors the day we did his interview and ever since then I’ve found myself developing a language that allows me to communicate why these videos, and this opportunity for these individuals to share their story, have so much potential. As an individual who has done extensive work in studying models of leadership and my own strengths; I have been able to tap into many “tools” in my “toolkit” that allow me to present myself in a meaningful way and develop trust and rapport with these individuals. This is an incredible experience. I am so grateful.

With the release of our first of ten videos last Wednesday we saw our readership jump extensively. Prior to releasing the short film on Philip Black we had around 75 views of this blog and we are now nearing 250! The video has been seen over 80 times on YouTube and we have been able to track “Shares” on Facebook. However, with the releasing of the video I’ve already had to answer many questions (mostly from my family and friends). Questions were raised about the validity of these videos and whether or not these videos will be testament to the work that Street Sense is doing and the hope that these vendors seem to be living. Here we go again… am I ready? The answer is yes (or at least I think so). I am by no means an expert on homelessness. I am not a counselor, a fact checker, or an expert videographer and/or editor. But my heart lies within each moment of this project and I am learning. As I stated in a previous blog post – I have tons of articles lying in my “To Read” pile and I am so eager to have the time to settle into a routine of academic research while taking my work with Street Sense further and hopefully more “into the field”. There are so many goals and questions that lie ahead in the upcoming weeks for this project, but I am confident that these people will inspire you and I am promising to do my best in sharing with you their stories in an effective and concise way. That being said, I am more than excited to hear from you! I hope that all of the readers of this blog will feel free to question and comment on the work that I am doing with the help of Johnnie. And most importantly, share what has moved you. I have an incredible network of support surrounding me that I am so grateful for and I am eager to share with you the story of Tammy Karuza this coming Wednesday.

That’s all for tonight. Keep your eyes, ears, minds, and hearts open for upcoming article reviews and the release of Tammy Karuza’s film on Wednesday. – Abby

Words cannot describe how excited I am to finally be sharing Philip Black’s story with you all!

This is the first of the ten videos we will be releasing every Wednesday of the summer and we hope that they will inspire you to have meaningful conversations about homelessness and poverty. Maybe you’ll even decide to subscribe to Street Sense!

In the process of writing a bunch of things right now but will write a more in-depth write-up of this experience soon!

Don’t forget to comment and share this blog with all of your friends, family members, and coworkers!

All of the best – Abby

Sense of Accomplishment

Day 2: Success!! Just as hot out today but no mic troubles! We had an awesome day working with David Denny near the Eastern Market today. Luckily we were also able to find Philip Black (“The Cat in the Hat”) for a re-do as wel! Accomplishment!

David Denny has been selling for and working with Street Sense for two years now. He says that Street Sense gives him that “sense of accomplishment” which he had been lacking before and selling the newspaper has allowed him to break out of the vicious cycle of drug dependency and unemployment. Keep your eyes and ears open for when we release his video on June 4th!!

Johnnie and I are both looking forward to lots of editing and our first day volunteering in the Street Sense office on Tuesday afternoon. Feel free to comment on this blog or email us with any questions!

Have a Happy Memorial Day! – Abby

Philip Black

“The Cat in the Hat”: Philip Black calls DC his home and Street Sense his second chance.

It is realllllly hot here in DC today – the sun is shining and there is very little breeze. We went out to the Eastern Market this morning to find Philip Black, also known as “The Cat in the Hat”, and ask him to be our first interviewee. Having already spoken with Philip before we decided he would be the perfect person to begin this journey with. We had a wonderful time hanging out with him and watching him during “showtime” as he calls it. His story is incredible and there is no question that Street Sense has given him hope. We can’t wait to share it with you all; however, due to some mic-issues (first day and all) we have to head back over tomorrow and ask for a re-do… whoops! Learning all the time!

Be sure to check back soon for the video. Johnnie, Philip and I can’t wait for you to see what Street Sense is doing and how it’s impacted Philip and other vendors alike! We’re hoping to have the video up and running on Monday via the Street Sense YouTube account!

Happy Memorial Day Weekend!  – Abby

One of the most important people to acknowledge in this process is my partner in crime: Johnnie Mae Martin. Johnnie is a good friend and will be helping me through every piece of this project. She is an Organizational Communications Major at Capitol University and has already caught many of my spelling errors on this blog!

They say that everyone experiences a little (or a lot of) anxiety when they are preparing to take the first big step into the real world, doing what they know to be meaningful work:Anthropologists are charged with the task of understanding and representing cultures that otherwise have little voice; leaders are faced with the moment they take on the responsibility of others; and activists become anxious to lead social change by inspiring others. My name is Abby and I am all of those three things; and I am in fact, nervous.

Through short YouTube films and a photo journal project I will be acknowledging the hope and success which homeless men and women experience when they work with Street Sense ( in Washington DC. My goal is to inspire you, the readers of this blog, to have meaningful conversations and move towards creating social change.  My project is comprised of four goals: understand, create, educate, and reflect. Through these four goals I will be creating a campaign with the help of others to understand and pay tribute to the change that Street Sense is enabling in the lives of homeless men and women. I will be documenting their stories and working with them to understand why the Street Sense model works.

So here we are, at the first step. All of the sudden all of the preparation I’ve done must be good enough and I am charged with the task of taking a deep breathe and trusting that I can handle it. I have over 300 pages of reading on homeless populations, anthropological methods of activism, and how leaders must carry themselves and understand their colleagues and followers. So, I guess I’m ready. I’m accepting that every anthropologist feels anxious before they enter the field, that every leader questions their ability to lead others, and that every activists struggles to balance their passion with the reality they are in. Accepting and embracing. So.. deep breathe.. first step. Here we go.