Advocacy for those Experiencing Homelessness in Iowa City

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00:16:26 minutes

Document Type

Oral History

Publication Date

Spring 4-1-2014


Rhetoric 0020


Anna Williams


The Iowa Narratives Project could effortlessly be compared to the community’s voice in hiding. It allows for an extensive view on silent arguments that represent the community of Iowa City and its inhabitants. The target of our interest are the people experiencing homelessness in the community and the struggles that they deal with throughout their lives. In a society like the one we live in today, things like social class, wealth, and appearances dictate the quality of treatment people receive. It can be very unfortunate and potentially cruel for those experiencing homelessness because these individuals have many negative connotations associated with them. Stereotypes are a major cause for poor treatment and can lead to, what Jay Heinrichs would call in his book, Thank You for Arguing, a hasty generalization. Our goal for this presentation is to get people away from this adverse way of thinking and instead show them compassion, just as they would for their friends and neighbors. Assuming that any individual had a bad experience with any one person experiencing homelessness, making a statement like, “I had a bad moment with a homeless man/woman, so they must all be bad”, puts every homeless individual on the same level of degradation when in fact that is not true. As Heinrichs mentions, these are “examples that fail to prove the conclusion” (Heinrichs, 152). There is a strong negative stigma associated with those who are homeless. Once this stigma is in place, it is quite hard to change a mentality that has been rooted into our society. However, if the homeless population numbers are to be reduced, there has to be a more reliable support system for them. Even though they are experiencing homelessness, they are still human beings and should be treated as such. One of the most powerful rhetorical tools we employed in this narrative was pathos, which appeals to the emotions of the listener. As a subset of pathos, we expect to get the audience to sympathize with the homeless population in Iowa City. Heinrichs comments on how, “the great orator transforms himself into an emotional role model showing the audience how it should feel” (Heinrichs, 44). Gaining a better sense of how another feels can lead to better compromises. Due to this, one can better understand the struggles of the opposite party and can even promote the willingness to assist them. Our goal was to show the situations of the people experiencing homelessness in order to get our audience to feel guilty. Guilt is a strong motivator when persuading someone to take action. In addition to our use of pathos, we also employed patriotism. When creating our narrative project we consistently referenced words like Iowa City, community, and the University of Iowa. We employed these terms within our narrative to collectively unite the viewers of our project with similar feelings and emotions. By creating bonds between the passionate members of Iowa City, we aimed to encourage collaboration and advocacy for those experiencing homelessness. As we began working on the Iowa Narrative Project, we tried to show that we are all just people, specifically the homeless. Homelessness could happen to anyone. In Tyler’s interview, he told us how he had previously owned a construction company with a friend and made close to a quarter of a million dollars a year. Tyler’s relationship with his friend became very difficult, so he ended up leaving the company. This placed Tyler in a difficult situation of choosing between his health, or his career. By using the Plain Folk persuasion tool, and arguing that Tyler is regular person like you or me. We hoped to prove that this could happen to anyone, and ultimately call the viewers of this project to action. Overall, the basis of our project was to change the viewpoint about people experiencing homelessness. Using the name-calling persuasion tool positively rather than negatively we hoped to change the terminology from homeless people to people experiencing homelessness. Another way we argued for the homeless is through logos, or logical appeals. The form of logos we used is Deduction, “which is applying a general principle to a particular matter” (Heinrichs, 44). We used this to encourage people to help those who are experiencing homelessness by sharing the stories of the men we interviewed. Testimonials are an important part of an argument. To win an argument, it helps to have real life examples to back up what one is arguing. We used the experiences of the citizens and the people experiencing homelessness as our support to provide non-fictional events to strengthen our argument.


Copyright © 2014 Anyssa Trejo, Ashley Wood, Jorge Ramos and Marisa Henze



More information about the images available on http://ir.uiowa.edu/ideal_inp_images/