Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A Major Homeless Veterans Photo Exhibit Coming to Duluth

A toothless smile, a makeshift bed in the backseat of a car. A husband and wife perched on the edge of a bed at a homeless shelter in Duluth. These are some of the powerful images of under-housed United States veterans featured in the new photography exhibit Portraits of Home II: Veterans in Search of Shelter opening April 1st though the 23rd 2009 at the Depot in Duluth.

Portraits of Home II is the sequel to Portraits of Home: Families in Search of Shelter. Created by the Greater Minnesota Housing Fund, the Portraits of Home exhibit documents the lives of homeless and precariously housed children, families, and individuals in Greater Minnesota. Each photograph helps personalize the human impact that poor housing conditions and homelessness has on families and communities. Through the lens of 6 award-winning Minnesota photojournalists, the images capture the dignity and resiliency of people managing everyday life with few resources and the positive changes that can occur with safe, stable and affordable housing.

The deeply personal stories documented in Portraits of Home II illustrate that the places where veterans in Minnesota seek shelter too often fall short of what most of us would wish for those who have given up so much to serve our country. Veterans across Minnesota too often depend on insufficient housing that ranges from rented homes and borrowed couches to steam tunnel squats and abandoned automobiles. Homeless veterans are disproportionately people of color. 13% have children who are also homeless. On any given night, over 600 veterans are homeless in Minnesota and unfortunately this number is steadily on the rise.

While the focus of the photographs in the Portraits of Home II exhibit is veterans, we are reminded that there are thousands of other homeless men, women, and children in Minnesota. On any given night, over 9,000 children, youth, and adults are homeless in Minnesota. Every night, over 1,000 people are turned away from shelters due to lack of space. The stories featured in the exhibit reflect the larger homeless experience in Minnesota. Like the larger homeless population, homeless families are both young and old and with or without children. Some suffer with chemical dependency issues, mental illnesses, and physical disabilities. Some have full-time jobs and some are unable to find steady work. Some have been homeless for years, while others have only recently been forced to hit the streets. The heart touching stories documented in the exhibit remind us that all should have access to safe, decent and affordable housing.

The aim of the Portraits of Home II exhibit is twofold: to raise awareness of housing issues in Greater Minnesota and to spur citizens to take action. You are invited to join with government, civic, faith-based, business, and community groups that have banded together to end homelessness in Minnesota. Every year scores of community leaders throughout Minnesota work to construct and rehabilitate hundreds of affordable homes in Greater Minnesota. This good work stabilizes both families as well as communities. While it is the hope of every family to live in a safe, decent and affordable home, much remains to be done.