"Family and friends are a lifeline when you are homeless."

Here we see Joanne, the sole named participant of the Off The Grid Project (right) and whose story can be found here and here, in a candid moment with a resident of the Lynn Emergency Homeless Shelter whom she had not seen for some time.  As many individuals are treated similarly by organizations, regardless of gender, age, disability, etc, individuals experiencing homelessness rely heavily on one another, quickly forging deep and long-lasting connections. 

OFF THE GRID Collection, 2016. Digital Photograph. ©OFF THE GRID. All rights reserved.

Every homeless shelter has different ways they assign—and the duration for which they assign—beds. The Lynn Emergency Shelter at the time had a dormitory system and would assign new beds using a lottery system where people would pick cards with numbers which correspond to their order for picking a bed (or choosing to for go a bed). Once bed’s were assigned, they were assigned to that person for 21 days, or until they chose to leave. Contrast this system with Pine Street In where bed lotteries are were only for one night.

One exception to the daily bed lottery at Pine Street are those enrolled in the work program. Participants in the work program either help clean and turn over the shelter daily or are part of the iCater program.  The iCater program, founded in 1990, provides food service training and employment opportunities individuals experiencing homelessness, while providing high-quality, affordable meal service for corporate catering and congregate service providers. Trainees help prepare more than 2,700 meals each day for shelter guests and other customers.  You can learn more about iCater, and how they can provide your company or organizations with meals, here.

OFF THE GRID photography

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This collection is the result of a generous donation from Dr. William U. and Jensie Shipley.

One cold and snowy New England winter, adults living in an emergency homeless shelter were offered a camera, weekly mentoring and basic photography skills; they were encouraged to “go out and take photographs that tell your story’' with the promise that their images would find an audience during exhibition. The goal of this project was to offer a voice to people who often feel excluded and who are frequently misunderstood. The name OFF THE GRID speaks to the experience of being outside and looking in. Becoming homeless is not part of a person’s life plan. It is often the result of spiraling circumstances: illness, loss of job, death of a family member, inadequate health insurance, addiction, divorce, inadequate housing.

During this 6 month photography project that ended with the coming of summer sunshine, the focus of attention of participants went beyond feelings of frustration and powerlessness. Like peeling away the layers of an onion, over time and with developing trust, the images and the photographers' words began to reflect a deeper sense of hope and beauty that we believe is the full expression of human resilience when suffering is given the opportunity for self expression. There are many reasons why we should care about people who are faced with this devastating experience. Even if you don't have a family member or friend living in this situation, then it is simply important to care about people because we are all connected in some way.

Enjoy the exhibit and next time you pass by someone who is homeless, say hello and remember that there is a person of potential and courage beyond the label of “homeless.”

Alison Brookes MD, Susan Ogan MS MSW, Joanne G. Paul, photographer

Other work from OFF THE GRID