Mel Trotter ArtPrize collection educates on causes of homelessness


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The exhibition being hosted by Mel Trotter Ministries Park for ArtPrize 2021 hopes to change your perspective on people who are experiencing homelessness.  

“A Walk in Their Shoes” demonstrates how people find themselves in a homeless situation.

“We are really trying to dispel myths and stereotypes about people who are experiencing homelessness through this journey,” Heather Osterink of Mel Trotter Ministries said. “A lot of people think it’s your old white drunk man, a lot of people think it’s drug addicts, lazy people. Only about 4% of the population experiencing homelessness have an addiction.”

Osterink explains that she uses the term “experiencing” homelessness because it shouldn’t define people. Instead, she says, it is just one part of their life journey.

The shelter’s exhibit shows the five most prevalent paths to homelessness as depicted by five different artists. 

“This one in particular depicts mental illness and often times when you are dealing with mental illness there is loss of job,” Osterink said. “A picture here, this is detailing someone who had a successful business and was injured and couldn’t pay medical bills and lost everything. We’ve actually have had several guests who have stayed in our mission where that’s happen to them.”

There is also a piece about domestic violence, drawing attention to the large number of women who end up without a place to stay after leaving an abusive relationship.

“I wish that everybody would try to understand that it’s not up to us to judge, but it’s up to us to take care of everybody and love everyone as much as we can,” said James Egaku, the artist who painted the work, called “Train Station.”

Members of the LGBTQ community shunned by their families also make up a large part of the homeless population.

“It’s simply that they have something different that is excluding them from the family that they know,” said Lisa Carlson, who painted a piece that depicts an LGBTQ youth being forced to leave home. 

The fifth piece shows homelessness in the suburbs. Mel Trotter says some families living paycheck to paycheck can lose everything with one unexpected bill, pointing out that homelessness is more about lack of relationships than anything else.

“If you think about yourself or myself, I have a lot of family. I have a lot of people I could turn to before I end up in the streets,” said Osterink. 

Some people aren’t so fortunate.

“You could be homeless. I could be homeless. We just don’t pay attention to that and it’s the wrong thing to do. We need to start taking care of people,” Egaku said.

“Transformation” by Trena Myers, displayed at Mel Trotter Ministries Park for ArtPrize 2021. (Sept. 23, 2021)

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