Transforming lives through art and advocacy

Betsey and her family were denied state shelter twice because she made $68 more than the eligibility rules allow. With nowhere else to go, her family lived in a car for two weeks. When Betsey lost her job during this time, she finally qualified for shelter and came to Housing Families. To survive this toxic stress, Betsey turned to art as a way to channel her anxiety: “There were points while being homeless when I just had to get it out. I pulled out crayons and paper, otherwise I would go crazy. Art is the best way for me.”

Betsey is leading a mural project with Housing Families’ Family Advocacy Group which will portray the journey each family makes through darkness, growth, and light in order to recover from homelessness. They hope that the mural will be a way to convey the effect of homelessness on families. The group is partnering with local artist Kitty Zen, who herself has experienced homelessness. “I have been homeless myself off and on for almost half of my life now. Survival for me has been consistently stressful and uncertain,” Kitty explained. “I hope that my work can help pave a safer and easier-to-navigate path for others.”

For both Kitty and the members of the Family Advocacy Group, art is transformative. It is a way of expressing difficult emotions such as fear, exhaustion, and resiliency, but also a way to change society’s treatment  and perception of homelessness. Housing Families’ group hopes to use this project as a way to influence the State Legislature and encourage community involvement. As Betsey explained, “Advocacy brought my voice out to help others bring their voice out. We need more opportunities to reach out to the community.”