“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”Romans 15:13
Art is a powerful tool, and for many of our neighbors experiencing homelessness, it has become a therapeutic pathway to find hope, joy and life transformation.
At the Mission, while we work hard to get everyone who comes to us into stable housing and access to important resources, we have also seen that more connections to the joyful moments of life can provide motivation to take active steps toward progress.
Through an innovative art collaborative hosted each week, Angie Tims, Associate Director of Housing Stability at our 48th Avenue Center shelter, has seen several guests go from a state of hopelessness about their situation to having a spark of hope and new interest in seeking help from a case manager. She has seen several men go on to join the New Life Program, our rehabilitation program for men at The Crossing and Harvest Farm, and she’s seen those men get housed.
“What helps people maintain housing are the connections and how they respond to success, failure or boredom,” Angie explained. “We can help to start those routines and habits now so they can maintain them. I just like for people to know that they are deserving of life’s joys.”
“I believe we’re created in the image of our creator, God. So I love to bring people together, make them feel appreciated and that they can create things that are beautiful and life giving.”Angie Tims
Every week the art collaborative offers a different project for the guests to create, which have included paint pouring, watercolor and acrylic painting, drawing, bracelet-making, paper quilts, duct tape wallets, and Christmas ornaments.
Often Angie, other staff members or volunteers will facilitate a lesson along with the craft, such as painting their emotions, creating coping skills cards for when they are in a bad headspace or vision boards of what they are moving towards and what they are feeling.
“Maybe they’re not ready to seek mental health care or any other resources that are going to be necessary for them to get out of this situation, and so it’s giving people an opportunity to just be with others and do something that is good for them, that brings life,” Angie said. “Then, as we have conversations, those can lead to them realizing, ‘Oh, I can interact, and I can actually do these things.’”
Angie shared the story of one guest, who joined the art collaborative session after simply walking by one day. “While we were sitting there, he got an email from another state housing property that he had been on a waitlist for,” she recalled, encouraging him to act on it. “We got him in with a case manager, helped him make sure he had all of his identification and then helped him get back so he could take advantage of that housing opportunity.”
Through the art collaborative at 48th Avenue Center and several other creative groups across the Mission’s locations, art has become an innovative form of therapy. Trauma is housed in the same area of our brains that we are creative with, so art and creativity can help someone process through trauma before they can even put words to it.
“I’ve been into art my whole life. In first grade I won an art contest. I’ve always loved it, and it definitely relaxes you. I painted, I drew, I did a lot of colored pencil stuff, and I just haven’t done it for a while.”Charlie
“My grandparents were very creative. They were woodworkers and painters. It’s in my DNA. I like being creative. I played hockey growing up, and I drew and did artsy things when I wasn’t playing hockey. I used to make t-shirts for my dog. Art therapy is great for anybody. Here, it’s always something different every week. It’s just adding color to the space.”Tom
“When I was a kid in school, I would always do art and so it’s kind of like a remembrance of that. I’m not an artist, so just sprinkling a little joy into your day, that’s what it’s about. It’s just fun.”Les
“I have a background in art history, computer-aided design and Photoshop and Illustrator. Art is finding what’s important; it’s a good way to express yourself and express what’s going on inside your mind. I’m reading a lot, working on my thoughts, trying to overcome the cloudiness in my mind.”Cal
Creating art together has been beneficial for both the guests and staff members. “We’re laughing, we’re joking, sometimes we’re talking about good memories from our past,” Angie said. “People’s eyes light up when there’s that exchange of joy. People come to life. You see people who’ve been closed off start to be a part of conversation. And then you’ll see a smile start to break. And then as you’re walking through the dorm you see some of them engage with each other. I’ve had guys say, ‘You know, I wasn’t so sure about coming, but I’m really glad I did. I really feel a lot better.’”
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Thank you for helping add color, light and joy to the lives of those living in darkness. You can help paint a story of hope for many others!