Resilience in the Face of Homelessness

Resilience in the Face of Homelessness uses art to provoke deeper discussion on homelessness.

Connections among the community can make for stronger bonds and allow for deeper discussions on hard topics.

Moments of vulnerability are rare but the Resilience in the Face of Homelessness portrait exhibit offers a chance to see past circumstances and see people for who they are. Normally, Words Come to Life puts on a single poetry-inspired art event but due to the subject matter, project director Diana Ramirez decided to make it a three-part series that concludes conclude April 19 at 6 p.m. at the Idea Hive.

Ramirez realized that the subject of homelessness could provide a deeper discussion on an issue that tends to be ignored.

“It’s a big topic, especially in the last few years – something that people notice more, something that people talk about more,” said Ramirez. “It’s something we should worry about as a community and should be concerned about. We’ve built this barrier between us and them but we’re all humans. In my opinion, it’s become a kind of dehumanization. I wanted to bring in people that have faced homelessness or are currently facing homelessness so that they can share their stories. This is the perfect opportunity for them to connect. This is what this event is all about – making connections for people to be heard.”

The process of getting the portraits is a delicate one. Sam Valdez, the photographer for the exhibit, makes sure that his subjects do not feel exploited. Instead, he hopes they feel safe.

“My goal is to sit there and just chat with them,” said Valdez. “I know they’re going to write their stories down. That their going to get their stories out either way but while they’re with me, I want to just talk to them. Just treat them like people. Hear their stories and try to draw out an emotion.”

The topic of homelessness hits close to home for him as his girlfriend’s mom is currently battling homelessness. The same can be said for Ramirez, whose friend has faced homelessness.

“I wanted him to share his story because he’s not in that place anymore. It’s important for people to know that you can thrive post homelessness. That you can succeed in life; sometimes it takes motivation,” Ramirez said, believing that motivation comes from being given a platform.

Ramirez has set up writing workshops at The Mission at Kern County to open dialogue and give people a chance to open up and be vulnerable in anticipation for the portraits being taken. However, she soon realized the benefits of these workshops had beyond the purpose for the event.

“I’m hoping to have more writing workshops or perhaps art workshops for those adults that have a second chance at life because art and poetry are therapeutic. I thought this is a perfect way to integrate art,” said Ramirez.

The exhibit is giving those who have faced, or are currently facing, homelessness a chance to share their stories. It allows for a platform to connect with others and motivate them through art. Both Valdez and Ramirez hope to inspire the community to see themselves in their stories.

The event is free and opened to the public. 

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