"We help each other mentally and physically. If someone needs clothes, I try to find them. I ask do you need a shoulder to cry on?"

  We all need someone to lean on. A good friend may not always be able to solve your problem but a welcoming ear can go a long way to lessening your mental burden until the right solution is found. Here we have what appears to be teenage 4 buddies enjoying lunch and each other’s company. I can only imagine the jokes being told as they devour fries and look out at the day ahead of them. Their youthful laughter can probably be heard throughout the diner as well as by passersby on the street. At that age there are not many things as exhilarating as an honest roast session with your crew. But we can never forget that within that jubilance lies an insecurity and anxiousness that you only feel comfortable sharing with your peer group. Your confidants. The very people who know exactly what you’re going through because they are experiencing the same feelings. Sometimes being a friend is as simple as sitting, watching and sharing.

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

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