Meet Our Founder and Coordinator
DeBorah Gilbert White, Ph.D. is the Founder and Coordinator of HerStory Ensemble. This community-based advocacy, artistic, economic development and empowerment organization is an outgrowth of her experience with homelessness, work with its emerging issues, and understanding of the prevalent risk of homelessness for many women confronting various life circumstances and situations. Describing her experience of homelessness as the "perfect storm" DeBorah has not allowed the experience of homelessness to defeat her, but rather has chosen to use it to give voice to those who feel disempowered and to dispel myths and stereotypes about homelessness through awareness, education, and advocacy. Her professional training as a social psychologist, years of social justice advocacy, and faith provides unique insight to the work of eradicating homelessness.
In her role as an associate professor teaching psychology, sociology, and cultural diversity courses, DeBorah challenges others to examine their perceptions of homelessness and people who are identified as homeless. This is particularly thought-provoking when students learn that she once taught her online university classes from the community lounge while a resident at a women's shelter in Wilmington, DE. People experiencing homelessness come from all walks of life. For this reason, DeBorah does not view her experience as unique, but recognizes her willingness to talk about it expands perspectives and helps to dismantle stereotypes.
In 2012 the question was asked, "Is there a Homeless Persons Bill of Rights for the State of Delaware?" The answer was no. The question was prompted by what DeBorah witnessed, heard, and experienced in community related to homelessness and housing status, and the need to support the empowerment of people experiencing homelessness. The experience of homelessness became a call to action. It ignited collaborative efforts among various agencies and groups for development and passage of a Homeless Bill of Rights in Delaware to address the treatment of people experiencing homelessness. A Homeless Bill of Rights for Delaware continues to be a work in progress. The anatomy of homelessness involves having sustainable income, availability of and access to affordable, safe, secure, and stable housing.
DeBorah's focus has expanded toward addressing the criminalization of homelessness. Working in community with various groups and organizations across the nation, including the National Coalition for the Homeless and the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, she (HerStory Ensemble) serves as a member of the steering committee for the developing national campaign "Housing Not Handcuffs" to challenge oppressive practices and laws connected to homelessness. She also serves as a member of the National Coalition for the Homeless’ Faces of Homelessness Speakers Bureau. DeBorah and HerStory Ensemble will continue to work to develop awareness, educate, and identify resources to support transformative change in hearts, minds, and community.
In 2019 Dr. Gilbert White was appointed to the Presidential Deep Poverty Initiative of the American Psychological Association (APA). In this capacity she serves as a liaison for the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues (SPSSI). The appointment brings her voice of lived experience and advocacy to the important work of addressing poverty, particularly homelessness, by changing attitudes, perceptions, practices, and policies. She continues to serve as a member of the Faces of Homelessness Speakers Bureau with the National Coalition for the Homeless in Washington, D.C.
The work of HerStory Ensemble is shaped by its Advisory Board Members; Rhonda Celester, Sherri Akil, Danielle Deputy, Rosemary Davis, Minnie White, Tanisha Gilbert, and Jasmine White. Pictured below are the community events HerStory Ensemble has participated in to bring deeper awareness about homelessness and its emerging issues. They reflect our community conversation “Justice Notes” at the Delaware Art Museum, Peace Week Delaware “Peace Train” presentation, MLK Day “Housing Not Handcuffs Justice Walk” at Legislative Mall, DE, Delaware Mental Health Forum Community Conversations, Georgetown University panel discussion on homelessness, and “Homelessness: Expanding The Narrative and Protecting Rights” presentation, at the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues (SPSSI) Summer Conference.