The Lullaby Project

by Brandi Tuck

  This speech was given at the Lullaby Project concert on April 26, 2018.

This speech was given at the Lullaby Project concert on April 26, 2018.

PHFS partnered with Oregon Symphony and Carnegie Hall this spring on The Lullaby Project which paired professional singer-songwriters with moms living in Goose Hollow Family Shelter. The music created by the mothers, songwriters, and musicians was showcased in a special community performance on April 26. 


Good evening, I am Brandi Tuck, Executive Director at Portland Homeless Family Solutions. Our mission is to empower families experiencing homelessness with their children to get back into housing – and to stay there. We are honored to participate in this beautiful Lullaby Project with the Oregon Symphony.

All of the moms that participated in the Lullaby Project are experiencing or have recently experienced homelessness. They have all stayed at PHFS’ Goose Hollow Family Shelter or our Family Winter Shelter. More than half of them are staying in shelter right now.

I have to tell you – experiencing homelessness is hard. These families work hard every day at their jobs, at getting their kids to and from schools all over town, at trying to find an affordable place to rent in this town where rents are rising.

All while not having anywhere for their kids to do their homework, eat dinner, or brush their teeth.

Even in shelter, it’s not ideal. Families are sharing a close space and only five toilets with dozens of other people who are also going through one of the hardest times of their lives.

People experience homelessness for a variety of reasons, but mostly it’s because housing is really expensive, and jobs don’t pay enough money.

A minimum wage earner working 40 hours a week makes $1,500 a month after taxes. And they don’t get healthcare or paid time off. They certainly don’t have a 401(k). 

Because they are focused on one thing: a place to eat and sleep with their kids and a place to give their kids a bath. And getting back into housing.

As I said before, homelessness is hard. But it’s more than just hard –You see, when anyone’s brain is exposed to stress, the hypothalamus releases a combination of chemicals to help the brain deal with that stress.

When it’s motivating stress like a wedding or finals week at school, the brain helps you get through it by releasing a cocktail of chemicals to support your work.

But when your brain is exposed to distress, like domestic violence, abuse, neglect - homelessness, the brain releases a cocktail of chemicals that quite literally puts your brain into survival mode where  it’s hard to learn new skills, or pay attention at school because it’s hard to do anything other than concentrate on survival – food, shelter, clothing, hygiene.

I tell you this because it helps illustrate how incredible the Lullaby Project is.

We brought seven moms going through one of the hardest times of their lives, when their brains are literally in survival mode, together with professional musicians to write music, something that not one of the moms had ever done before, and probably never thought they would do in their whole lives.

Everyone was super nervous coming in for our creative day, and you could really feel the anxiety from both moms and musicians. And then we started working through the curriculum of the Lullaby Project.

Singer song-writers shared their voices and styles, musicians displayed the various sounds their instruments could make, we sang lullabies from our childhoods together.

Then the moms picked the musicians they wanted to work with, and they got started co-creating their lullabies. They huddled in small groups – mom, singer song-writer, and a rotating group of musicians.

The healing power of the music helped the moms move past their survival mode and actually open up and helped the musicians hear what the moms wanted to say and translate it into music.

Together, they created the lullabies that you are hearing tonight. These songs are joyful, heartfelt, raw, emotional.

They are gorgeous and professional, and every single person involved will tell you the same thing – the moms are why these songs are so special because they are all such strong women and loving mothers, and their light shines in each one of these lullabies.

The process of creating music with these talented musicians was so empowering for each of the moms. It gave them a time to work through some really hard emotions, and we all shed a lot of tears together.

Each of the moms came out of this process saying they felt powerful, confident, accomplished. What’s more is they came out feeling hopeful for the future.

During a time when they are so focused on just surviving homelessness, the Lullaby Project gave these moms a space to build community, restore power, promote autonomy, and inspire hope.

The Lullaby Project gave these moms a chance to heal. Thank you.


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