For all of my adult life I have felt a burden on my heart for those in the community who are experiencing homelessness. Approximately ten years ago I volunteered with Outreach, Inc – an organization that serves homeless and at-risk youth in Indy – where I had my first experience of actually going out on the street and in less-traveled areas tucked-away where we hoped to find (and help) kids who had no place else to call home. I did that for a while and then, unfortunately, let other demands of life occupy my time. But I never lost the pull to this type of ministry and I continued to feel that burden. I started carrying a backpack in my car filled with food, water, socks, underwear, and a few toiletry items and every once in a while the Spirit would move me to stop and talk to somebody holding a little cardboard sign at some intersection. Every time I did that I was filled with a mixture of emotions: joy that I made a connection and helped a person in-need, as well as deep sadness at their condition and how little I could really do for them. At the close of 2015 I was feeling this call to serve much more intensely and I vowed to make the next year one of action – that I would really step-out and up my game in serving the homeless. And that is what I did. For the first six months I did more of the personal outreach from my car and also learned about the Indianapolis Continuum of Care. I immediately inquired about any street outreach and was directed to a wonderful man named Ed and his team from Hazelwood Christian Church. Every Tuesday evening Ed, Lisa, Ashley, Niki, Kelsey, Paul, and/or Sophie would visit several of the homeless camps on the South and East sides of Indy. It has now been a year since I started working with this group and I consider it one of the greatest blessings of my life. These folks are so awesome and we all share the same desire to do as much as we can to help those who are in such desperate need. I have also been very engaged with my home church (Grace Church) through two programs with the Wheeler Men’s Mission: every Sunday we serve the evening meal at the shelter, and every 2nd Saturday of the month we welcome about (10) men to our church to attend the 4:30 service and then share a meal.
It was during our Tuesday night outreach that Sophie and I started talking about how we might join forces and merge my interest in additional follow-up activity with our homeless friends (finding that once-a-week did not maximize opportunities to really get to know them and help them take action) with her existing blog called Faces of the Homeless. She expressed that she, too, felt like this could become something more…
So, we are very excited to launch Faces of the Homeless, Inc. and have also welcomed Paul Siktberg to our group!
While visiting Nashville, TN, in July of 2012, I spent a day walking the streets and talking at length to homeless people that I came across. Their stories touched me so much that I started a blog to tell their stories. Thus began the Faces of The Homeless project, where I use my photography and writing skills to tell the truth of homelessness, and encourage the public to see the homeless individuals as people with feelings, hopes, and dreams, in need of friendship and encouragement just like them, not “bums” or “eyesores” for the city government to clean up.
In January 2015, I started visiting the homeless camps in Indianapolis on a regular basis with a group of kindhearted folks from Hazelwood Christian Church (Clayton, IN). I have become friends with many of the homeless people, and they have given me the nickname “Battery Lady” because I’ve been bringing them batteries for their flashlights and lanterns. I am grateful to many of my more fortunate friends who have been donating clothing, sundries, flashlights, and other items to give to my homeless friends.
Believing that people will take action when something touches them on a more personal level, I hope that through my photography and writing, I can bring the issue of homelessness to a more personal level for others, and move them to make a difference in the city where they live, and together, we can end homelessness in America.