Street Soul: The Human Side of Homelessness
The mobile exhibit, Street Soul: The Human Side of Homelessness, is the result of an intensive five-month collaboration between vendors at Street Sense who have experienced homelessness first-hand and visual artists at The Sanctuaries.
Housed within the traveling I Have a Home Here gallery space – reminiscent of the unstable, constantly-in-motion nature of homelessness – the exhibit weaves the stories of homelessness into visuals of loss, chaos, anxiety, trauma, distrust, waiting, and the ever-present threads of hope. It serves both as a profound statement about the experiences of homelessness and a testimonial to the power of inclusion in uncovering and changing challenging circumstances facing our community.
Through this exhibit, we invited viewers to develop a deeper understanding of what it means to be homeless in this city and present concrete ways for you to help end homelessness in DC.
The exhibit toured DC from November 2016-February 2017.
At Street Sense: Sheila White, Ken Martin, Bardia Saeedi, Angie Whitehurst. At The Sanctuaries: Aliana Grace Bailey, Katie Byron, Laura Coleman, Naomi Kumar, Sonaly Patel, Katherine Tan
The bus was divided into fives spaces. Each dedicated to a different experience.
Section 1: Insecurity, anxiety, loss
Section 2: Trauma, hopelessness, distrust
Section 3: Chaos, frustration, problem-solving
Section 4: Waiting, vouchers, roadblocks
Section 5: Sanctuary, space for reflection
Section 1: Unstable Ground - From Anxiety to loss was a collaboration between Katherine Tan and I. The final section: Sanctuary was a solo venture of my own.
Unstable Ground - From Anxiety to Loss
Section Key Words: Anxiety, Insecurity, Loss
Our section shows the journey from anxiety to loss associated with the experience of homelessness -- from the anxiety, insecurity, fear, and sense of being overwhelmed triggered by impending responsibilities (eg. overdue rent, overdue bills, some triggering event like illness or an accident) to loss of home, material possessions, cherished relationships, and even sense of oneself.
Significance of elements:
- "Red" section symbolizes anxiety and insecurity; "Blue" section symbolizes loss
- Words on ceiling are direct quotes taken from homeless individuals about their experiences
- Birdcage with caution tape and words representing emotions symbolizes pent up anxiety, fear, and emotion; the feeling of being trapped in your circumstances
- Round cardboard circles symbolize clocks & time, which relates to responsibilities closing in and anxiety
- The mirror with sections blacked out symbolizes insecurity in one's sense of self
- The picture frames & wall hangings with blurred out words symbolize loss of relationships and connections with loved ones
- Door with "evicted" written on it symbolizes loss of home
- Box symbolizes having to pack up all your stuff and only being able to take the most essentials with you
We have hopes and dreams—all of us. Reflect on yours. Reflect on what makes it possible. What resources, support system, and privileges help you to carry out your dreams? How do basic necessities make your life more manageable? How does it provide you with room to focus on your dreams and aspirations? Knowing where you’re going to sleep at night, how you’ll pay your next bill, or how you’ll feed your child dinner tonight. Whatever resources, support system, and privileges you may have, imagine if you lost them tomorrow.
More than 8,350 people are homeless on any given night in Washington, DC. Often, we get caught up in our own lives and fail to reflect on the overall state of humanity. We overlook the lives and circumstances of others. We pass moments by. We pass people by. We pass the opportunity to make a difference in someone's day, maybe even their life. We pass by people who are without a home everyday as if they do not exist—as if we’re numb to inhumane living situations; as if they are not our equal. Completely overlooking the fact that it could happen to any of us.
This space is inspired by moments when we're most in touch with our humanity, thoughts, and compassion. It’s the silver lining that always exists. The hope and peace we must hold on to and cultivate. This space is about presence.
In times of awareness and injustice, we must follow up with action. We have taken you through the human side of homelessness—the thoughts, challenges, experiences, and trauma. We must use that emotion and understanding as fuel. This space is for taking action. How do we make an impactful difference in the lives of others so they too, can turn their dreams into reality?
ABOUT THE COLLABORATORS
I Have a Home Here is a school bus turned rolling interactive art installation/gallery. Its artists are people who are experiencing unstable housing and its core mission is to raise awareness about the un-housed and serve as a platform for contact and interaction among communities. To learn more, visit www.ihaveahomehere.com.
Street Sense is a full-spectrum, non-profit media company based in Washington, D.C. Founded as a street newspaper in 2003, it offers economic opportunities to people experiencing homelessness through media that elevates voices and encourages debate on poverty and injustice. Their innovative approach harnesses the talents, aspirations, and hard work of men and women who are homeless.
Street Sense also runs a number of art workshops ranging from writing, photography, film and illustration to interactive art and spoken word. Street Sense uses the process and outputs of these workshops to create greater interaction and understanding between the housed and unhoused communities in DC. For more information, visit www.streetsense.org.
The Sanctuaries is an arts community that brings together creativity, spirituality, and diversity in pursuit of social change. The Sanctuaries’ artists span the spectrum of artistic media, from music and fine arts to photography and dance, and come from many ethnic, racial, and religious backgrounds. In addition to arts based teams, The Sanctuaries hosts a number of community events such as Soul Slams and monthly Huddles and runs The Collective, an interdisciplinary program equipping artists with tools and support to make a lasting change. To learn more, visit thesanctuaries.org.