Neaplensah “Princess” Yarnway never imagined she’d be a star, but tonight she’ll become one as part of the Community Housing Partnership’s “A Night With the Stars” talent show and fundraising event at the Brava Theater Center.
The annual benefit, now in its seventh year, celebrates the talents and spirit of formerly homeless San Franciscans who have transformed their lives with the help of CHP, a nonprofitorganization that offers permanently affordable housing to the homeless. CHP operates 10 buildings with 648 housing units and is working on five additional housing sites.
For the past three months, Yarnway and her children have been earnestly preparing for the performance in hopes of taking home the grand prize of $500.
Known as the Jazzy Girls, the dance ensemble will perform a step routine to DJ Unk’s “Walk it Out.”
“Oh, I’m very confident. We’re in it to win it,” says Yarnway, 28. “When we’re done, [the audience] is going to want to walk it out, too.”
Yarnway’s newfound confidence is a far cry from the hopelessness she felt during the two years she was homeless. The Tenderloin resident found herself without a home in 1998 after she decided to leave a bad relationship. Pregnant and caring for a young child, she bounced from one relative’s home to another, but never quite found a stable place to stay.
Upon the advice of her mother, she applied to CHP’s housing program and in 2000 she was offered a permanent place to live.
Since then, the devoted mother of four has dedicated her to time to providing a better future for her family.
“All of the people in the talent show have arrived. They are in a totally new place in their lives,” says Jeff Kositsky, executive director of CHP.
“To see someone who used to live on the streets and was so disconnected from society get onstage in front of 400-500 people and share their talents is pretty amazing. You can see it on their faces what an experience it is. It’s such a far cry, such a long journey from where they used to be.”
The talent show, which was initially started by CHP as a confidence builder for job interview workshops, features a host of judges such as Ellen Gavin of the Brava Theater and Stanley Williams of the Lorraine Hansberry Theatre.
Judges will assess each act against a 30-point system, which looks at originality and creativity, audience enthusiasm and quality of presentation.
In addition to the performances, “A Night With the Stars” will feature the first-ever Partnership Awards, which honor various individuals and groups — Joel Lipski of the Mayor’s Office of Housing, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP, San Francisco Foundation and Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation — for their ongoing support of CHP’s mission.
“I expect an amazing show,” says Theresa Howe, CHP fund development manager. “This is a way to celebrate the spirit of the organization and the extraordinary talents of the people we serve.
A Night With the Stars
Presented by Community Housing Partnership
When: 7:30 p.m. today
Where: Brava Theater Center, 2789 York St., San Francisco
Contact: (415) 929-2470 ext. 304 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org