You can read about Help-Portrait (a world-wide, once-a-year event) and the Helping Up Mission (which is where I volunteered today). I had never heard of the Helping Up Mission (then again, despite living 15 minutes away from Baltimore for the last year I don't really know anything about anything the city offers). Putting my opposition to religious-based...well...anything aside, I was extremely impressed with what they do at this facility. There are between 400-500 men there at any one time participating in a year-long addiction-recovery program which includes counseling, education services, medical services, housing and a lot more and it's free (receiving no public money).
Average age of residents: 40
Average length of addiction: 23 years
Average time in jail: 30 months
This is not a typical homeless shelter and, in fact, not all of the men living there and receiving treatment are homeless. They do, however, offer what they call "overnight guest services" which include a bed, shower and meal for those who simply need a place to stay and don't want to commit to the program. On very cold days those beds will fill in just a few minutes leaving many still with no place to go.
The goal of today's project was to give these men (another team in Baltimore did the same thing at the House of Ruth shelter for women and children) a professional portrait. Simple as that. Many of them had family members come to be in the picture with them. It was great to see the family love and support these men are receiving while they're working towards recovery from addiction and return to productive society. It was such a joy to see how proud they were of the work they've done so far and how excited they were with their pictures.
Here are a few of the pictures I took (all with permission!).
|The REAL photographers setting up.|
|This man had a beautiful family and you could see how happy he was to have them there.|
|One of the photographers shows one of the men his picture.|
|Reviewing the pictures and picking the best one (each man got to select one picture to be printed, on the spot).|
|One man and his beautiful mother.|
|One of the men shows me his portrait.|
|Son and grandson there for support.|
|I talked to him (the same man as the photo of the hands) for quite a while. He has a lot of ambition and he seems to be doing very well.|
Seriously, this was such an incredible experience. I hope to get to do it again and I hope it gets to where it happens more than once a year. [I think I've edited this at least 5 times now because I keep thinking of more I want to say. I just can't capture how happy this whole thing made me!]