John Brady helps run the Voices of Our City Choir, a group of homeless and formerly homeless San Diegans. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

Homeless San Diegans are rarely heard in debates about their plight.

John Brady and the Voices of Our City Choir have raised homeless San Diegans’ voices through their performances and advocacy in the past year.

The group of homeless and formerly homeless San Diegans that Brady helps lead has performed throughout the county and starred in a nationally distributed documentary, helping those who watch see the humanity of homeless San Diegans.

What started as a grassroots effort has blossomed into a choir with about 160 regular participants who have performed at a slew of events and even collaborated with the San Diego Symphony.

This year, the group also took on a more prominent role in local policy debates.

This fall, the choir hosted a forum for City Council candidates to push them to share their plans to address homelessness.

Brady also regularly stepped up to the microphone at city and county meetings to advocate, striking a chord with fellow advocates and policymakers.

A video of Brady’s speech urging the City Council to vote against placing a hotel-tax hike to fund a Convention Center expansion, homeless services and street repairs on the November ballot circulated on social media.

“We do not need a bigger Convention Center. We need housing,” said Brady, who also highlighted the choir’s concerns with police enforcement affecting homeless San Diegans. “Stop trying to sell this city something that does not address its needs. Stop trying to sell this lie on the backs of our poorest.”

And in October, Brady’s suggestion to county supervisors that they should redouble efforts to aid homeless San Diegans provoked an explosive reaction from outgoing Supervisor Ron Roberts.

Brady’s entrance into policy discussion on homelessness is not just notable because he himself used to be homeless, but because typically those who publicly advocate for the homeless are service providers – who might be very well-intentioned but who also have a financial stake in the outcome of those discussions.

Look to the choir to continue elevating homeless San Diegans’ voices and perspectives in 2019.

This is part of our 2018 Voice of the Year list, profiling the people who kick-started San Diego’s biggest civic discussions over the past year.

Lisa is a senior investigative reporter who digs into some of San Diego's biggest challenges including homelessness, city real estate debacles, the region's...

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