North Carolina Coalition to End Homelessness

The Soloist

The Soloist tells the story of an unlikely friendship between Steve Lopez, a reporter for the LA Times, and Nathaniel Ayers, a schizophrenic and chronically homeless man that Lopez meets playing a two-stringed violin on a street corner.  The book and the movie based on it explore the link between homelessness and mental illness, providing an opportunity for people to begin conversations about how these issues affect their communities.
If you are interested in holding an event around the book or the movie, take a look at these ideas and resources.  

Suggestions for Events

Host a panel discussion on homelessness:   
  • Discuss the causes of homelessness, current local/state/national rates of homelessness, ways to prevent homelessness, local resources and organizations, ways for community members to get involved  
  • Possible speakers: caseworkers, shelter staff/directors, advocacy organization staff/directors, community members with personal experience of homelessness       
  • Look into holding the discussion at a local homeless services agency
Host a panel discussion on mental illness:
  • Discuss what it's like to live with mental illness, signs and symptoms, resources for help, how to fight stigma, how mental illness affects people's lives, what local organizations are doing to work with mentally ill people in the community
  • Possible speakers: caseworkers, counselors, hospital staff, directors of local mental health organizations, psychologists/psychiatrists, community members with personal experience of mental illness
Host a movie screening:
  • Invite community members to watch the movie together and host a discussion or Q&A session afterwards
  • Staff a literature table with information on homelessness and mental illness and how people can get involved with local organizations
Host a book discussion:
  • Partner with your local library for a community read
  • Hold a reading at a local bookstore
  • Contact local book clubs and suggest they read The Soloist
Use the book or movie as a staff development tool:
  • Have staff members read the book or see the movie together and hold a staff meeting afterwards
  • Discuss how the issues raised by the story relate to your agency: the process of recovery, the challenges of engaging clients and providing services, the problem of compassion fatigue, the need to maintain balance between personal and professional life
  • Research the ways that other states provide services for homeless people and discuss ways for North Carolina to improve its system
Get media coverage:
  • Contact local radio and newspapers to publicize your events
  • Write letters to the editors of local papers
  • Blog about your thoughts on the movie or include a segment in your newsletter

Materials and Handouts

From the National Alliance to End Homlessness (
From the National Alliance on Mental Illness (

Discussion Questions 

If you are holding a panel discussion or Q&A session, use some of these questions to get a conversation started:

Other Resources