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Visiting author says humanities education will give riches to homeless

Earl Shorris, author of the landmark book Riches for the Poor, has been in Sydney this week to assist the St Vincent de Paul Society in developing their unique homelessness program Charles O'Neill House.

"You have to hurry when you're poor, to stay alive, to stay afloat"(they are) "de-facto non-citizens", said Mr Shorris speaking on the topic Education in the Hands of the Restless Poor at Sydney Grammar School on Tuesday evening.

Shorris has developed an innovative approach to education for homeless people and others living in poverty.

The Clemente Course, founded by Shorris, is now operating in over 30 locations in the US, Canada and Mexico as well as being a component of the Charles O'Neill House Program in Sydney. Shorris says that the humanities are the most practical education anyone can receive. Education, he says, will change the world.

In his book Riches for the Poor, Shorris gives many examples of how the education process has been successful in assisting people out of poverty. While this is not the complete answer it represents a different approach.

Shorris says: "Will the humanities make you rich? Yes, absolutely. But not in terms of money. In terms of life."

Similar to the Clemente Course in New York, Charles O'Neill House in Sydney helps homeless men to become "rich in the humanities". Residents study archaeology, art and history and are taught and encouraged by the highly skilled staff of Sydney Grammar School, Ultimo TAFE and skilled professionals, who volunteer their time. Many men are referred to this program from the St Vincent de Paul Matthew Talbot Hostel in Woolloomooloo.

Whilst in Sydney, Mr Shorris is participating in Homelessness Seminars with St Vincent de Paul staff and volunteers, including a workshop with Sydney's Aboriginal Community. The Mexican President recently acknowledged Earl Shorris with an award for his work with the country's homeless and indigenous communities.

St Vincent de Paul Society

Social Transformation through the Humanities:An Interview with Earl Shorris (Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities)
Earl Shorris: In Defense of a Practical Education
Riches for the Poor (Amazon)
St Vincent de Paul Society

7 Mar 2003