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Settle by Ledah Finck considers what we can do to help those experiencing homelessness.

"We settle for less; we settle for giving a dollar when we wish we could give warmth and safety. Some of us settle in big furnished houses where the electricity is always on, some settle down when we don’t know where else to go, and some settle in whatever scrap of shelter we can find.

When I moved to Baltimore from North Carolina in 2014, and during all my visits to Baltimore before that, one of the most immediate and jarring things I noticed was the ubiquity of people who clearly spent a lot of time on the streets. I’ve never been directly affected by
homelessness, and likely never will be thanks to the network of relatively resource-rich friends and family I’m privileged to have. However, living in Baltimore or in cities like it means that during the course of most days, when walking to work or home or the store, you can expect a small encounter with a person who asks for spare change or for help of some other kind. It’s a reality that I and many of my peers don’t know that much about, and we struggle to know the “correct” way to respond to this kind of interaction with a stranger on the street. I’ve also learned that there is a good deal of stigma and stereotyping towards those experiencing homelessness: they enjoy it, they’re lazy, they’re criminals. Particularly troubling to me are the split-second judgments one makes when encountering homelessness, about the person’s character, the level of threat they may pose, and whether or not they are worthy of our attention or a dollar. We can’t know everyone’s story, and we can’t help every person we interact with. But we can remember that no person wants to be without access to a healthy and stable living situation, and that most homeless individuals have likely experienced extreme hardship. According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, the average life expectancy for the homeless population is between 42 and 52 years, compared to 78 years for the general population.

“Settle” was written as a reflection on life for those who don’t have a home and who subsist in places not meant for habitation. The piece is driven by one melody, which is repeated over and over in different framings; by the end, it’s probably gotten repetitive and familiar, but fragments are cut away until almost nothing is left. For the midsection, a nocturne-like melody in one hand is unpredictably obscured by blaring interruptions from the other hand, a musical depiction of the stresses of the lack of a private, quiet space in which to address basic needs. My intent is to encourage listeners to consider compassion towards those who experience homelessness, and to consider active gratitude and stewardship towards whatever home and larger community they possess. There is a deep lack of long-term support available for people experiencing homelessness and for addressing its causes and symptoms, but many organizations, largely non-profits, exist that accept monetary donations and that rely on volunteers to help support the homeless. These include Healthcare for the Homeless and Neighbor to Neighbor. In Baltimore City, organizations such as My Sister’s Place, Helping Up Mission, and Baltimore Station serve homeless populations and accept donations and volunteering. If you’re approached by a homeless person, the advice I’ve been given is to give what you’re comfortable offering, which might just be a smile and a kind word. Those things can go a long way. Otherwise, it helps to know that a night in many shelters costs a few dollars—a level of support that is within many of our means."

-Ledah Finck


released June 5, 2019
Composed by Ledah Finck

Performed and Commissioned by Lior Willinger

Video and Audio Post-Production by Four/Ten Media

Audio Engineering by Atticus Hebson and Noah Frank


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Lior Willinger Baltimore, Maryland

Award-winning pianist Lior Willinger is passionately committed to inspiring empathy, understanding, and action through music.

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