Founded by Rex Hohlbein in 2010, Facing Homelessness is an organization that uses a unique approach to support the homeless. While providing conventional shelter, food and clothing, Facing Homelessness differs from other organizations by using empathetic storytelling to encourage community members to get involved.
Though empathy doesn’t directly provide shelter, food, and clothing, Facing Homelessness sees it as a powerful force for homeless individuals. With empathy, Facing Homelessness aims to give a voice and promote understanding for the homeless.
“There is no such thing as life with food and shelter only. We are beings that exist in community, and without community, even food and shelter will not keep a person alive and functioning. We need to be seen, we need to be heard we need to be accepted,” said Sue Rooney, Facing Homelessness’s interim executive director.
By combining photography with in-depth coverage of real homeless individuals, Facing Homelessness strives to create stories that capture the unique situations each person experiencing homelessness has.
alternateFORTUNES by Damian Monda, featuring real homeless individuals simply known as Haley and Mark, is one of the organization’s many stories that tries to help readers understand not only the circumstances that brought them to homelessness but the emotional struggle of living on the streets.
alternateFORTUNES’ tells the story of Haley’s struggle with schizophrenia and her partner Mark’s dedication to protecting her. Haley’s condition makes her incapable of taking care of herself and Mark has been unable to work and care for her. The goal’s that these stories will bring individuality to homelessness and help readers understand why it can be difficult to overcome.
“Homelessness is daunting, homelessness is too much, but to learn about one human being, to understand the condition, the environment the struggles of one human being, that is completely comprehensible,” said Rooney.
Rooney says Facing Homelessness tries to show that homeless individuals are no different from any of us. They want to show that nobody becomes homeless willingly but each has a unique circumstance for being there.
“Those circumstances can be very embarrassing. They can be shameful, they can be hurtful they can be traumatic and the more a person slips into trauma the less capable they are of saying, ‘I need help,’” said Rooney.
One of the struggles many homeless services face is getting community members on board with helping. People worry that feeding and sheltering the homeless will attract crime or create dirty environments. Rooney’s response is that there isn’t a way for the homeless to generate a recovery without outside help.
“To me, it’s very similar to hypothermia, when the human body has cooled off there is a point of no return, that the only way that the human body can be saved is through the heat of an external presence,” said Rooney.
Homelessness can seem like a large and faceless issue, and for those who have never experienced homelessness, its cause isn’t immediately comprehensible. Facing Homelessness tries to tell a story and bring a voice to a community that doesn’t have one otherwise, showing why people are homeless and why it’s hard to get out.
Facing Homelessness hopes that bringing homelessness down to the real people in it and their experiences will be a gateway to compassion and community involvement. Readers can read more stories and find out how to support Facing Homelessness on their website.
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