As the cost of housing keeps rising and services for mental illness and drug addiction are underfunded, more people are ending up on the street.

It’s a message many in Skagit County have heard before. And it’s a message Stella Ireland hopes to deliver in the play “No Place like Home: Myths, Truths and Solutions about the Homeless Crisis in our Community.”

The show, set for 7 p.m. Saturday at the Lincoln Theatre, will be the second production by Mount Vernon-based group Theater Arts for Social Action, she said. Admission is by donation.

Motivated to tackle societal issues through theater, Ireland interviewed members of Skagit County’s homeless population and collected their accounts of how they became homeless, and their struggles of living on the street.

Their first-person accounts will be read aloud — with minimal editing — by performers.

Ireland said the play reflects the reality of homelessness in Skagit County. One anecdote is of a family losing its home due to repeated and unexpected layoffs. Others detail the struggles of making ends meet while dealing with a disability or mental illness.

Ireland said the idea for this play came out of her group’s first production last year, “$40 and a Bus Ticket,” which dealt with the difficulties of reintegrating into society after incarceration. People told her their biggest barrier was finding a safe, affordable place to live.

Ireland teaches in Skagit Valley College’s basic education program, where she said discussion on divisive issues such as homelessness is common.

“(The students) are just so burnt out on these crises,” she said, adding she sees a frustration in the community with growing homelessness in the region.

By approaching the issue in an unconventional way, she said she hopes to compel people to empathize with those experiencing homelessness, and offer hope and inspiration to those looking for solutions.

“It just gives a different pathway to entering the issue,” she said.

Doors open at 6 p.m. for a silent art auction in support of the Skagit Valley College Foundation Second Chance Scholarship, which is awarded to homeless students.

Following the show, a panel of local leaders will convene to discuss strategies and solutions to homelessness.

— Reporter Brandon Stone: bstone@skagitpublishing.com, 360-416-2112, Twitter: @Brandon_SVH

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