S.O.U.L.S. captures homelessness realities

BOSTON — Suffolk’s Organization for Uplifting Lives through Service (S.O.U.L.S.) held a photo exhibit for Hunger and Homelessness Awareness month on Nov. 6 at Suffolk University to help change common misperceptions students have about the homeless.

For the seventh year in a row, S.O.U.L.S. has been sponsoring a clothing and food drive for Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Month at Suffolk University.  Each year, an exhibit of photos taken by homeless people themselves is presented to the Suffolk community.  This year, the exhibit was called Perspectives: From One Lens to Mind’s Eye.  S.O.U.L.S. worked with Neighborhood Action, an organization offering several programs, such as food and clothing donations to those in need.  Together, S.O.U.L.S. and Neighborhood Action gave cameras to 10 homeless people in the Boston area to capture different aspects of their lives.

Jonathan Paton, a senior at Suffolk and a service scholar in the S.O.U.L.S. office, has been the coordinator for Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Month since last year and was in charge of putting together the photo exhibit.  He explained that the people chosen to take pictures were mostly people they have had previous relationships with, and were people they could rely on.  He also explained that some of them were in the process of transitioning out of homelessness.  The pictures they took were supposed to be of things that interested them or were important to them, and any obstacles they might experience, said Paton.

istock_000004342356xsmall.jpgOne picture in particular was of the belongings of one photographer. The photographer gathered the few things he owned in a small pile on the ground and took a photo of them.  Some of his belongings consisted of sunglasses, an mp3 player, and a jacket.  Paton said how it was “very important to have things of their own and to call them ‘mine.'” Paton plans on making his life out of non-profit work because working with people like the homeless, “brings another level to my life.”

Another service scholar in S.O.U.L.S., Molly MacKinnon, came to the exhibit to support Paton and his program.  She explained how a person can learn so much from the exhibit and how it really can change people’s perspectives on the homeless.  She said how she got to see a different aspect of their lives through living in Boston, and seeing the exhibit.  Being from a small town, MacKinnon explained that there are not a lot of homeless people around.  She said that most people have bad connotations of the homeless, but then, “you remember that they’re people too, and they’re just down on their luck.”

The director of S.O.U.L.S., Carolina Garcia, worked with Paton on this project.  She explained that the mission of S.O.U.L.S is social justice and that “it’s a part of who I am.”  She said she was brought up in a manner of wanting to help people, and hopes that the exhibit will change people’s thoughts about homelessness.  Garcia expressed how the general stereotype of homeless people is that they are, “drunk and drug addicts on the street.”  She believes the photo exhibit and other aspects of Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Month will “show how easy it is to become homeless.”

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