Putting a Face on Homelessness

Alexander R. Moore
Spare Change News

A joint collaboration between the Horizons for Homeless Children (HHC) organization and the National Center on Family Homelessness (NCFH) to commemorate Homeless Awareness Month resulted in a display of riveting photographs of homeless children and families. The exhibit, Looking Into Light, contains vivid images of children undergoing the difficulties of homelessness and families struggling to survive.

Ellen Bassuk, president of the NCFH, cofounded the organization with the then-editor of Better Homes and Gardens magazine. The magazine hired a photographer to take 50 photo shoots around the country of homeless families – the anonymous photographer donated the work. Black-and-white images on display recently at the State House were only a portion of the photos; Bassuk stated that there are close to 20,000 negatives from the shoots.

Bassuk said the message of the event was to raise awareness. “Homeless families are everywhere—although they are invisible,” she stated. “If more people understand that young mothers, fathers, and children are involved, they will help to end this national tragedy.” As she stepped in front of a photo depicting a young girl, she added, “The major message we hope to bring, in addition to awareness, is that [these] children are just like our children—and the families have the same hope and dreams for themselves and their children as we do.”

Kelli Slimp, marketing and communications coordinator at the HHC, when asked what impact she believed the exhibition would have on the Boston community, replied, “We hope that visitors leave the exhibit, ready to learn more about the issue and to take action to help homeless children and families in their communities.” Bassuk added, “We hope that some people will learn more about the issues and realize that many children in families are homeless and deserve to have a bed they can call their own.”

Slimp continued, “It is a startling fact that so many children live in homeless shelters with their families, and it is startling that that number increases every day. Exhibitions like this can be powerful and our hope is to reveal to visitors the plight of homeless children and families, through the power of visual images.”

In 2009, more than 170,000 American families spent the night in a shelter – a 30 percent increase since 2007. Homeless families can be found in every state in our nation and in many communities.

The Looking Into Light exhibit was on display at the State House from November 14-18 and is currently being showed at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in Washington, D.C. It is expected to tour the nation over the next two years. High-quality digital reproductions of selected photos from the tour are available from the National Center.

To see more photos from the exhibit, go to http://www.familyhomelessness.org/LookingIntoLight/

Alexander R. Moore is a freelance writer.

photo/national center on family homelessness

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