Photo exhibit depicts the lives of homeless in Boston

BOSTON — Students from a service learning organization at Suffolk University presented Perspectives: From One Lens to Mind’s Eye on Thursday Nov. 6 in the fourth floor lounge of the Donahue Building at 41 Temple Street. The event featured a photo exhibit with pictures taken by various homeless people in Boston, a discussion led by one of the photographers, and light refreshments.DiscussionJon Paton, a senior community service scholar of Suffolk’s Organization for Uplifting Lives through Service (S.O.U.L.S.) coordinated the event. The exhibit has been a popular event since its inception six years ago and Paton has organized the event for the past two years.

“My goal is to put out the message that not every homeless person is someone in need of a home, but someone who needs a normal life, not sleeping on the street or on a friend’s couch,” Paton said. This event is part of Hunger and Homelessness Month at Suffolk.

Four disposable cameras were distributed to the photographers at “supper club,” another effort Suffolk students participate in to end hunger. The collection of photographs capture a 24-hour day on the streets through the eyes of Boston’s homeless; they include photos of their few belongings (most often including a carriage and trash bags containing their clothes and blankets), some of their friends who live on the Boston Common and the “Project Bread” van that stops on Tremont Street once a week to pass out meals. Most of the people at the event recognized a picture of “Glen,” a friendly man who sits outside Dunkin’ Donuts on Cambridge Street each day.

The discussion was led by Chris Nourse, a middle-aged man who was given Section 8 housing last year as part of the Breaking Ground initiative to clear the Common. “There are 6,700 homeless people sleeping on the streets of Boston each night, and only half as many beds in the shelters,” said Nourse. He believes there are various factors that contribute to homelessness, including drug addiction, mental illness, fire, criminal records and job loss. Nourse was homeless for almost two years and had a great deal of insight to share with attendees at the event. “Shoes are a very important part of being homeless, you’re walking all the time. The feet just ache constantly,” Nourse said to the crowd.

Among those attending were sixth grade students from The Advent School on Brimmer Street. The school focuses on social issues and injustices in its lessons and the kids were very informed about homelessness. Everyone managed to stay engaged despite the noise and commotion in the lounge. “I think we’re talking about this problem to raise public awareness and see their perspective,” said an 11-year-old male student. The students all agreed that the exhibit made them feel spoiled. Following the discussion, cheese, crackers and juice were served.

Perspectives: From One Lens to Mind’s Eye will be on exhibit through mid-December.

Learn more about S.O.U.L.S. and other community service opportunities at Suffolk University.

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