Interviewing Shahera Hyatt on the youth homelessness and what the arts can do to help

Shahera
Shahera Hyatt is the Director of the California Homeless Youth Project, an initiative of the California Research Bureau focusing on educating policymakers on the needs of homeless youth in California. She has authored several publications on the topic of youth homelessness including policy briefs on LGBTQ youth, as well as the nation’s first state action plan on ending youth homelessness. She is also a local comedian and was a special guest at our May 2 Talk-Back for Treatment.

Artistic Associate Sean Patrick Nill sat down with Shahera to discuss Mayor Daryl Steinberg’s new initiative to house 2000 homeless residents of Sacramento, how to better understand homelessness issue, and how the arts can play a positive role in that issue.

For the past decade, as Sacramento has grown, so has the homeless population. In the last two years alone there has been a 30 percent increase. How many of these individuals are between the ages of 12 and 24? What is the correlation of a growing metropolis and an increase in a homeless population? Is there a way a city can both grow and assist individuals from living on the street?

The impacts of the foreclosure crisis are still being felt across the country and that is certainly true here in Sacramento. When people lost their homes more folks were pushed into the rental market thereby decreasing vacancy rates and increasing rent. Couple that with the fact that Sacramento developers can opt out of developing affordable housing by paying a fee up front, which is a fairly recent policy change that makes it less likely that affordable housing is being constructed. This negatively impacts not just low income renters, but all renters. I think that a city can grow without homelessness increasing, but if there are not protections in place, then gentrification and displacement take hold pushing more people onto the streets, or into other precarious housing arrangements.

A week ago, Mayor Steinberg declared that he would work to reduce the amount of homeless inhabitants in Sacramento by 2,000. What is the most effective way in doing this? How do you think the mayor will go about reaching this goal?

This is a really big question! The mayor’s plans to reduce homelessness can be found online, but essentially he plans to allocate 1600 housing vouchers to chronically homeless folks. This is one strategy, that is a little controversial among providers and advocates because it doesn’t add to the housing stock or help to prevent homelessness, but it could rapidly help to get some of these folks off the streets and into permanent housing.

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The California Homeless Youth Project works to educate law makers on youth homelessness and ways to go about avoiding it. How was this initiative started? How has it fought against homelessness in Sacramento? What are CHYP’s plans for the future?

This year we celebrate one decade of doing research and policy work to better address the needs of homeless young people across the state of California. We have conducted nationally groundbreaking research and helped to pass landmark legislation to respond to the crisis of youth homelessness in our state. Locally, we started the Sacramento homeless youth task force creating a coalition of providers and advocates working with young people experiencing homelessness across the county of Sacramento to create a united voice and organize together to better serve young people. We also co-facilitate a weekly organizing meeting made up of young people with lived experience of homelessness where we strategize about how to improve conditions in our community to better serve unhoused youth and young adults. The criminalization of homelessness has been a big priority for our organization and for the young people that we work with. We’re also focusing specifically on the needs of homeless college students and increasing housing strategies for young adults transitioning into adulthood.

Many people see Sacramento homeless as the city’s priority. How can individuals assist on a daily basis? How can organizations such as B Street support?

Homelessness primarily exists because of poor policy and funding decision-making at the local, state and federal levels, but the narrative that exist about homelessness is that it is a personal problem or character deficit. People can and should challenge this narrative. There is an unfair stigma that exists for people experiencing homelessness that leads to discrimination, harassment and worse. People can treat people experiencing homelessness with dignity and respect, and share resources if they feel comfortable and able to do so. Individuals can advocate to elected leaders to address homelessness and listen to people experiencing homelessness as experts and allies in this struggle.

How can the arts assist in initiatives such as Mayor Steinberg’s and YHP’s?

Avoid stereotyping people experiencing homelessness in the arts. Find local organizations that are doing good work to meet the needs of this community and create performance opportunities that benefit these organizations.

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Interviewing Stephanie Altholz on her relationship with a puppet

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Acting can require falling in love on stage and that can make things complicated off-stage. In the case of company member Stephanie Altholz’s newfound love with her cast mate Tyrone, it’s flat out bizarre. We’re not even sure there’s a name for their kinky thing.  Artistic Associate Sean Patrick Nill talked with Stephanie about her felt love with a guy who’s perpetually got a stranger’s hand inside him.

How is it working with puppets?

Stephanie: Working with puppets is a wonderfully new experience. They’re very professional, always on time, and quite soft to the touch. It is a bit unnerving that they never blink.

How is Tyrone different from the other puppets you’ve worked with?

S: Tyrone is really the first puppet I’ve ever worked with so there’s nothing to really compare him to, which is probably for the best.

Based on your social media, it seems that you and Tyrone are good friends? How did that friendship begin?

S: Our friendship was pretty instantaneous. The first time I saw that soft, yellow skin, and perpetually open mouth, I knew he was special. And then when that cute, open mouth called someone a “motherfucker” I was like, “yeah, this is my guy.”

What do you all do for fun?

S: I can’t really talk about my leisure time activities with Tyrone as they’re not strictly legal. I will say there’s often fire involved.

Hand to God is running in rep with An Act of God. Does Tyrone get along with the other cast (specifically Nick Cearley who plays god)?

S: Tyrone hates Nick. He gets confused easily and doesn’t quite understand that Nick is not, in fact, God.

Is Tyrone professional backstage?

S: Tyrone is the consummate professional. He does, however,  hide in dark spaces backstage sometimes, but he wouldn’t be the first actor I’ve worked with who has a weird process.

How is Ryan (actor who plays Tyrone) and Tyrone different?

S: Who’s Ryan?

Oooohhh, the hand… yeah, I don’t really know him at all.

Hand to God closes Sunday. What do you and Tyrone have planned for your last week together? Will you miss him?

S: I can’t really talk about the end of the show. It makes me too sad. Also, Tyrone had me sign something saying I won’t talk about our future plans, sooo…

HAND TO GOD is in its final week and closing on July 23. Tickets are still available. Call the Box Office to purchase.

Revolution Wine: the wine of B Street Theatre

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In May of this year, B Street Theatre found a new wine partner in Revolution Wine, Sacramento’s first urban winery since the Prohibition. On Saturday Revolution Wine will celebrate its 10 year anniversary with a Revelry & Revolution Party from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. at their S Street location. Colleen Sullivan, Revolution’s wine maker, talked to Artistic Associate Sean Patrick Nill about the winery (located on S & 29th) and its plans with B Street Theatre for the future.

What makes Revolution unique from other wineries in the Sacramento area?

Colleen: Revolution is a full scale urban winery on the grid in midtown Sacramento. We do everything from crush to bottle in midtown. We’re not just a wine bar. We still are in the vineyards just as much as a ‘normal’ winery is. We work closely with our growers and harvest from vineyards as local to Sacramento as possible so we can showcase what our area has to offer. Our location at 29th & S streets holds our winery, and restaurant where we serve wine on tap, an extensive farm to fork menu, bottles and growlers to go.

How did Revolution Wine come to be?

Our owners Gina & Joe Genshlea had the idea of bringing wine back to the city. Sacramento was a huge vineyard and winery city before Prohibition and we are working hard to make Sacramento a wine city once again.

What made you decide to make wine for a living?

I love the story a winery and a wine can tell. Working with multiple generations of growers and winery owners is inspiring and seeing how their hard work and insight is put into every wine is amazing.

What brought you to Revolution? What makes it a great place to work?

I was born and raised in Sacramento so I definitely wanted to come home after college and Revolution was the perfect fit for me. Revolution is a small, family run winery and embraces our urban factor which is great. I’m able to work closely with the owners every day and push the envelope.

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Why are B Street Theatre and Revolution wine a perfect combination?

Both being small businesses, it’s nice to see each other thrive and have a common goal of showcasing what Sacramento is all about. We both are long time staples of Sacramento and are have the chance to “grow up” with our city.

During this crazy summer heat, what are your wine/food pairing recommendations?

Of course I’m going to lean toward a crisp white or rosé, Sauvignon Blanc, Albarino, or Rosé of Grenache. And I’m loving these with our fresh caprese salad or our citrus-cured salmon tartine.

Tickets are available to the Revelry & Revolution Party through their website.