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'She nailed it': Innisfil teen uses voice to help homeless

Anna Goldsmith, 16, part of ensemble group Artists Against Homelessness, which is raising money for Toronto's WoodGreen Community Services
Artists Against Homelessness is an ensemble of 13 singers, including Innisfil resident Anna Goldsmith.

Artists Against Homelessness is an ensemble of 13 singers — including 16-year-old Innisfil resident Anna Goldsmith — that featured on the new song, The Forgotten Homeless.

Produced by Chris Birkett and written by Toronto-based musician and songwriter, Richard Todd, everyone involved agreed to waive their royalties and donate all funds raised from streaming the song to WoodGreen Community Services in support of its Unmet Needs program.

A United Way Anchor Agency and one of the largest social-service organizations in Toronto, WoodGreen helps 37,000 people each year, which includes managing 28 housing sites in the city.

"We are so thankful for the generosity of all the artists that gave of their time and talent to create this wonderful song and for directing the proceeds to support WoodGreen’s work in meeting the unmet needs in our city,” WoodGreen Foundation executive director Teresa Vasilopoulos said. "This team of artists have also helped us bring awareness to the need of the un-housed in our city. We are grateful for this wonderful collaboration and support.”

The song speaks of circumstances that may lead to homelessness, including a man suffering from addiction, a woman escaping from domestic abuse, and families living on the streets, which was inspired by the hardship faced by some newcomers to Canada as they wait for placement and struggle to acquire housing.

“Kids are in danger too … if not today, possibly tomorrow,” Todd said.

Lyrics such as "The tales that they tell/could be ours as well" and "Could be someone you know/A mother, father, brother, sister, or a friend" remind listeners that no one is immune to misfortune and anyone can end up on the streets.

Todd, who grew up in Newmarket and lived in Bradford for 20 years, has a history of helping the homeless. He previously launched two initiatives called Warm It Up and Sock Patrol. Warm It Up began by encouraging participants to give gift cards from coffee shops to homeless people in an effort to help them escape winter’s frigid chill.

“(Warm It Up) started out as just a very small movement, but it turned out to be something that was huge, thanks to the power of social media,” Todd explained.

Sock Patrol, which encouraged volunteers to collect and distribute socks to homeless people, soon followed.

The idea for The Forgotten Homeless came to Todd when a fellow musician grabbed the mic after a set at a bar. He asked the room at-large if anyone had a spare bed he could sleep on because he was homeless.

“It really hit home how homelessness doesn't just affect the arts community — which it does, and poverty as well — but it affects society as a whole,” Todd explained. “(Homelessness) harms us as a society — really, as a whole community.”

When asked about his lyrics, Todd said that "their stories must be told" is an important line because “I hate to say this, but a lot of people, you know, will step over homeless or pretend they're not there.”

Todd enjoyed working with the artists, including Goldsmith.

“We did a little different part and she nailed it,” he said. “It's not just that, but ever since then, she's gone over the top in helping promote the song and promote the cause.”

Goldsmith said homelessness is becoming a "bigger problem" in the Innisfil area. 

“It was so amazing working with all of these artists to help out with a very important cause,” she said. “People feel connected to music, so maybe it'll help some people realize that this is an actual problem. We need to all pitch in and help everybody that we can.”

This is the first time the WoodGreen Foundation has partnered with a group like Artist Against Homelessness, said Michelle Kerr, the foundation's vice-president of development.

“We are so excited and thankful to have this opportunity as it allows us to reach an even broader community to bring awareness to the unmet needs of the clients we serve," she said.

Listen to The Forgotten Homeless on Spotify. Learn more about WoodGreen by visiting its website.

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Amber Green

About the Author: Amber Green

Amber is a freelance journalist with InnisfilToday. Dedicated to the craft of writing, she is a storyteller at heart who writes novels, poetry, and short stories. She lives in Innisfil.
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