According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, in January 2015, 564,708 people were homeless on any given night in the United States.
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With that many people living on the streets of America, the issue of homelessness can sometimes feel like a problem too big and too complex to solve.
One organization, however, is taking a hands-on, personal approach to homelessness. The Human Impact, based in Dallas, Texas, works to build relationships with the homeless with the hope that those relationships can lead to change.
“And we’ve seen that happen,” Rachel Nash, resident art therapist with The Human Impact told Eye Opener. “[We] get called when people are ready to go to rehab.”
People who work at The Human Impact refer to the homeless as their friends, because in most cases it’s the truth.
The Human Impact isn’t just delivering hot lunches. They help their friends with doctor’s appointments, resumes, job interviews, getting proper legal identification, and more.
Nash says The Human Impact helps connect the homeless with a large pool of available resources to address their specific needs.
Many times, the homeless feel objectified or powerless
“So many people go into homeless encampments and take pictures of the homeless without even knowing the story or background,” Nash said.
And this is what lead to the idea of empowering the homeless to tell their own stories.
“Even when people have the best intentions of going down and taking pictures– because they want to show other people what it’s like– [you’re] still holding a power position when you’re the one taking the pictures,” said Nash.
So The Human Impact recently handed out disposable cameras to their homeless friends and asked them to document their own perspectives of homelessness.
The idea was to create an art exhibit that allows homeless individuals to tell their own stories. It’s called StreetView.
Nash said one of the homeless men who received a camera showed a lot of gratitude for the unexpected approach.
“When we handed him a camera and asked him to show us his perspective of the streets, he said ‘thank you for asking me to take the pictures instead of coming in, giving me food, and then taking my picture.'” Nash added, “The people we gave the cameras to responded really well to this project because they felt like they were being empowered to be the ones to tell their own story, instead of somebody coming in and just taking their photos.”
Something unexpected happened
Almost everyone that was given a camera took a photo of where they live.
Whether it was a tent or their bed at a shelter, most of the people took photos of their “homes.”
“That was a really cool aspect of it that we didn’t expect,” said Nash.
Some photos in the exhibit are difficult to look at, but others show the simplistic beauty of life and humanity.
“Almost every camera we got back has a combination of both,” said Nash.
You’ll see photos of people who appear to be incapacitated from drugs juxtaposed with images of folks enjoying time with their friends.
Nash told us that at the end of the day, homeless people are still people, saying, “these are just people and they just happen to be living on the streets now, whether its by choice or not by choice.”
“See the streets through the eyes of those who live on them,” is how organizers at The Human Impact chose to describe the StreetView project.
Click here to purchase tickets to the StreetView exhibit on October 13, 8 p.m., at Common Desk, 2919 Commerce St, Dallas, TX .