Pastor to Speak on Voluntary Homelessness

12/1/11 ASHLAND, OH -- Pastor Lorenza Andrade Smith, who chooses to live life on the street as a voluntary homeless person in order “to be in community with those who do not have a voice,” will present “Advocating for Systemic Change,” discussing her amazing journey to fight for the homeless, on Wednesday, Dec. 7, at 1 p.m. in the Ridenour Room of the Dauch College of Business and Economics on Ashland University campus.

The presentation is sponsored by the Department of Foreign Language, the Department of Religion and the Ashland Center for Nonviolence. The event is free and open to the public.

At age 42, Smith has already led several lives: that of a U.S. Air Force cadet, a housewife and mother, and the pastor of a United Methodist congregation in San Antonio. Contrary to her short stature and soft-spoken nature, Smith now leads the life of an outspoken advocate with a penchant for protest. As part of her ministry, she immerses herself in homeless communities in order to better understand their situation.

Smith sold all her possessions, rejected her church salary and benefits (which she estimates at around $45,000 a year), and traded her bed for benches, park grass and parking-lot asphalt. She has become homeless to fight for the homeless. Over the last few months, Smith has moved between shelters, local rallies, the U.S./Mexico border, jail cells and meetings with local faith leaders at a frantic pace. Her persistent involvement with politically charged social movements has gained national attention. 

John Stratton, executive director of the Ashland Center for Nonviolence, sees the presentation as an opportunity for learning about community and the people who live on the fringes of community. “It is very interesting to have someone like Lorenza, who has actually lived with the homeless, talk about the experience. Even though we do not see people living on the streets of Ashland, this issue is significant for our community,” he said.

Smith characterizes her life now as a continuing protest on behalf of the poor and marginalized -- a fight for "systemic change." Her presentation will focus on her journey to fulfill her personal mission and professional mission aligned with the United Methodist Church’s motto, “Open hearts. Open minds. Open doors.”

“There was a time when people thought that homelessness only affected men. In recent years, many more women and children have become homeless. Our region of Ohio is not exempt,” Stratton said. “There are individuals living out of cars and couch-surfing because they have been affected by the economy.”

The Ashland Center for Nonviolence, located on the campus of Ashland University, is committed to exploring and promoting alternatives to violence in ourselves, our families, our communities, and our world.  The center is committed to finding choices when there seem to be none, as well as answering the seemingly unanswerable question, "What else can we do?"  For more information about this event, or to learn more about the Ashland Center for Nonviolence, please call 419-289-5313 or visit us online at

Ashland University, ranked in the top 200 colleges and universities in U.S. News and World Report’s National Universities category for 2012, is a mid-sized, private university conveniently located a short distance from Akron, Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio. Ashland University ( values the individual student and offers a unique educational experience that combines the challenge of strong, applied academic programs with a faculty and staff who build nurturing relationships with their students.