Melenie Serrano, Researcher, Youth Action Hub at the Institute for Community Research
MORE THAN HOMELESS is a PhotoVoice project about what it’s like to be LGBTQ+ and also experience homelessness as a young person in Connecticut. PhotoVoice is a research method that gives people who typically are not heard a voice and a platform to share their personal experiences with the community using the power of photography and storytelling.
Usually when we think of homelessness, we think of older people sleeping on the streets and holding signs that ask for money. But in reality, people experience homelessness in many different ways. Young people tend to be hidden from public view - often couchsurfing with friends, or living in cars or abandoned buildings, vulnerable to drugs and trafficking and prostitution, sometimes trading sex for shelter and food.
I am part of the Youth Action Hub (YAH), a youth-led center of research and advocacy that provides critical youth voice and leadership in Connecticut’s efforts to end youth homelessness. We are a group of young people (aged 16-25 years old) with first-hand experience of homelessness who are trained and employed as researchers at the Institute for Community Research. When I first heard about YAH taking on this project, I was excited right off the bat, especially because I’ve been wanting to learn photography using a professional camera.
Each of us told our own personal stories for the PhotoVoice project. I wanted to go back to the shelter where my mom and I had stayed, but I was afraid that I wouldn’t get permission to take a photo there. But they were actually very supportive of the project. When I went to the shelter to take the photo, it was a little emotional being in that setting because the last time I walked into that shelter, my father was still alive. Normally when I sat at the table pictured in my photo, my mother and I would eat dinner there and then walk up the hill to go see my dad at the nursing home he was in. Even though it was a bit emotional for me returning to that location, I felt great doing this project because we were breaking stereotypes about homelessness and promoting the change we want to see.
I hope you will come to our PhotoVoice exhibit to hear more of my story and other young people’s experiences. If you would like to meet us (the photographers and writers), come to the opening-day reception.
PhotoVoice Exhibit Opening-Day Reception:
- Date: Thursday, February 15th
- Time: 4-5 pm
- Location: Concourse at the State Capitol Legislative Office Building (LOB) in Hartford
The exhibit is displayed at the LOB until Feb 28th; contact us at the information below if you would like a personal tour by one of the photographers/writers. After February 28th, the PhotoVoice exhibit will move to the Lyceum at 227 Lawrence Street in Hartford.
We hope that our project ignites a more candid conversation about the issues that young people face each and every day in our efforts to overcome our situations and achieve our dreams.
If you would like more information on an exhibit tour or a presentation by one of the Youth Action Hub, contact us at YouthActionHubCT@gmail.com or at 203-516-0461.
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