Storytelling through Art

Asset-Based Approach

At a Lee Dog Story and Homes for Hearts, we understand that many types of people experience homelessness and that although they have fallen on hard times, each of them have unique abilities and skills to bring to our communities. Many social service organizations often look at clients as “people with problems”. Staff ask “what’s wrong with this person?” or “How can I fix this person?” Instead of focusing on what is wrong with our client, we begin by emphasizing a person’s strengths and resources (internal and external) in the process of change. When challenges are experienced, problems and issues are acknowledged and validated, and strengths are identified and highlighted. This creates a powerful cycle where our clients are constantly improving themselves and their surroundings as they progress on the path to stable housing. 

People-First Language

At a Lee Dog Story and Homes for Hearts, we utilize “People-first” language. This rhetorical strategy, which has been embraced by the CDC, the American Psychological Association, and many others, is used as a way to break down negative stereotypes and promote the self-worth of individuals. Because of this, we refer to the people we are working for as people first—as adults, young people, children, Veterans—who are experiencing homelessness. When we use language such as “homeless people” or “homeless services,” it does not convey the vision of effective, person-centered responses that end homelessness and instead can sound like we’re describing an intractable problem that is about people who are fundamentally different from us. By using the description ‘people experiencing homelessness,’ we put the responsibility on our entire community to bring about a change to the status quo.

Ethical Storytelling Pledge

At a Lee Dog Story and Homes for Hearts, we are committed to telling stories in an ethical way so as to best promote the humanity and dignity of everyone we engage with.

A Lee Dog Story signed the Ethical Storytelling Pledge!

We pledge to:


  • Tell others’ stories the way we want our story told.
  • Always put people first.
  • Explain to constituents the purpose of the story, where it will be used and answer any questions they might have before photographing, filming or recording.
  • Find an able translator if we speak different languages.
  • Ask the constituent if they wish to be named or identified and act according to their wishes.
  • Use all images and messages with the full understanding, participation and permission of the constituent or the constituent’s legal guardian.
  • Uphold the dignity of our constituents through empowering imagery and messages that motivate engagement and inspire hope.
  • Truthfully represent a situation or story to educate our audiences of the realities, complexities and nuances of the issues we advocate for.
  • Not use images, footage or words that sensationalize or stereotype a person or a situation.
  • Ask for feedback from our constituents and incorporate this feedback into the final story.
  • Abide by international law, standards and protocols related to vulnerable persons, including the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).
  • Listen to our constituents’ voices and respect their decisions, story and journey.
  • Hold a posture of humility and learning, recognizing that failures can be our biggest educators.
  • Seek advice if we question whether a particular story, message or image is not in alignment with ethical storytelling practices.
  • Not tell the story, despite the resources invested, when the story cannot be told with the integrity of this pledge.
  • Take ownership of our responsibility to uphold integrity in our storytelling and messaging.


As a community of nonprofit practitioners and storytellers we commit to learning from the past and integrating a new standard of storytelling as we journey together into the future.