Barry Maxwell is a senior at the University of Texas – he’s also the founder of Street Lit, a creative writing class for the homeless.
“I started Street Lit as a class project, initially just collecting books to take to the homeless shelter downtown and to the Salvation Army,” Maxwell says. “I started as well the Street Lit authors club, a loosely formed community of writers who either live or have lived downtown at the shelter at the ARCH or the Salvation Army.”
Maxwell is a formerly homeless person himself. During that time, he spent a lot of time at the ARCH – the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless.
“Personally, I partied until I was homeless,” he says. “I generally just drank until I ruined everything. And the ARCH was the place of last resort.”
Maxwell met a lot of people who claimed they were writers while he was homeless. He thinks writing is good for self-perception.
“I think it was something that would’ve helped me keep it together a little better while I was there,” Maxwell says. “I don’t think you can really write your way out of homelessness, but I do think that it helps with your general attitude toward yourself.”
Street Lit provides something Maxwell says is integral to writing – people to do it with.
“My experience in Street Lit has led me to believe that anyone is capable of finding some sort of expression through writing,” he says. “The key to getting better at it is a community.”