Latest News from Outsiders Inn

Art show spotlights works by homeless

Vancouver Community Library wants to show their creativity, efforts to contribute

By Patty Hastings, Columbian Social Services, Demographics, Faith

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JDTurner AmandaCowen TheCoumbian

One of Jonathon David Turner’s wood-burning projects features cubes within cubes — the sort of art piece you have to readjust your eyes to understand. It sits in a glass pedestal on the downtown library’s first-floor atrium.

“It’s fun to mess with people’s heads,” quipped Turner, 31. “I would call it isometric optical illusions because you can look at the image at six different angles and see something different in each different angle. I try to actually accommodate each angle.”

He likes the mind-boggling works of M.C. Escher. If you want to talk to Turner about his artwork, he’s likely hanging out on the fourth floor of the library. He’s an artist in residence of sorts, spending days in the library and nights on Vancouver’s streets. He said he’s been homeless since 2009.

Homeless not Hopeless is the name of a new art show at the Vancouver Community Library featuring artwork done by local people who’ve experienced homelessness.

“The idea was to find a way to highlight the homeless population in a positive way,” said Ruth Shafer, program services manager at the library. “A lot of them really are being productive, creative, trying to contribute, and this is one way they can contribute.”

It’s the first time the library has attempted an art show like this, and it’s also the first exhibit in what’s called The Gray Space; people can find artwork throughout the first, fourth and fifth floors. It differs from the more formal gallery that people flock to for First Friday art receptions in the Columbia Room by the library entrance. Library patrons were clamoring for more art, and The Gray Space is what resulted. A series of hanging systems were installed along the concrete walls for displaying two-dimensional works.

“If you have a creative sort of side to you, no matter what your circumstance are you do it, or it comes out or you find a way to express it,” said David Gambale, senior library assistant.

Some of the pieces were hard to display, he said, such as a painting done on a T-shirt. Aurora Gallery donated matting services so the two-dimensional pieces could be hung on the walls.

The art show was the idea of Mandi Vee, who used to be homeless and spent much of her time creating art in the library. Although it took months to come to fruition, she’s looking forward to speaking at the show’s art reception Tuesday. She has several pieces in the library: stone jewelry, a crocheted baby blanket, drawings and an alabaster sculpture.

“That’s one of my favorite pieces. It’s still not done,” she said.

Some of her works speak more directly to homelessness, such as a beaded bracelet that says ‘being homeless should not be a crime’ and a poster with a series of questions for people to consider before judging someone who appears to be homeless. Does this person have a family they can rely on for help? Does this person have access to good, nutritional food? Is this person disabled?

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Homeless memorialized at church in Vancouver

St. Paul Lutheran Church holds annual service on first day of winter to honor dead

AdamKravitz memorial SamuelWilson TheColumbian

By Patty Hastings, Columbian Social Services, Demographics, Faith

Published:

When people gathered on the steps in front of St. Paul Lutheran Church on Wednesday night, it was foggy and 33 degrees. A few dozen people were there to honor those who have died while homeless.

Memorials are held in cities around the country on Dec. 21, the first day of winter and the longest night of the year. It’s a chance to memorialize people who maybe haven’t been properly memorialized and give thanks for their time on earth, said Tom Iberle, who heads the Friends of the Carpenter.

It was fitting that the memorial happened at St. Paul in Vancouver, which provides overnight shelter for men during the winter months. Some clients joined in the memorial before going inside to stay the night.

Iberle read off a list of 10 people with local connections who died while homeless this year. The list included the newborn daughter of a homeless couple.

There wasn’t a lot of information about the deceased — one person’s name wasn’t available, and for others their date of death was hazy — but that speaks to what happens when a person dies while homeless. It can be difficult to track them, document their deaths properly and recognize them.

One of the deceased was a man who frequented the Friends of the Carpenter in west Vancouver. Donald Prickett Jr. died in October in Reedsport, Ore., but was homeless for a while in Vancouver. He had many health problems and eventually reconciled with family in Reedsport, Iberle said. While he was going to the Friends of the Carpenter and doing woodworking projects, Prickett mastered scroll-saw techniques.

“I got to know Donald very well when he lived here in Vancouver,” Iberle said. “He turned out amazing works of art while living out of the back of his truck.”

The list of those who have died is longer than Adam Kravitz can remember from past homeless memorials.

“That should scare us. That should really scare us,” he said.

At previous memorials, Kravitz said, he knew the deceased because he knew them from when he was homeless. At Wednesday’s memorial, he knew the deceased because he tried to work with them through his outreach organization Outsiders Inn.

“It utterly amazes me that we expect people to burrow out of homelessness. It is literally like climbing a mountain that keeps going and going,” Kravitz said.

Vancouver has come a long way in recognizing and addressing homelessness, he said, but it still has a lot to work on in the coming year. Thousands of people in the community help out, and he encouraged people to continue doing good work.

“I have seen love go to the streets more than ever in Vancouver,” he said. “I want to continue that. I want to pump that up. I want you guys to be angry. I want this to be the last memorial.”

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