Homelessness affects at least 3,000 children and youth in Allegheny County. It is estimated that 40% of homeless youth are LGBTQ+. On October 26, the Homeless Children’s Education Fund held an art auction and celebration to amplify the voices of these young people: We Live Here Too. The evening featured paintings, drawing, sculpture, song, and dance—all by youth and children who have been affected by homelessness. Every penny from art purchased went directly to these young artists.
We Live Here Too
“Never surrender, never give up.” – Logan
“Live, Laugh, and Love” – Aurora
“An eye for an eye and the whole world goes blind.” – Matthew
When I arrived at We Live Here Too, I had the immediate sense that I had walked into a community. Throughout the night, attendees shared favorite quotes and bits of inspiration with me, included just above to give readers a hint of the support, acceptance, and empathy that defines this community.
So, why an art show? “Because you can learn about people by looking at a picture,” says Leann, age 7. Leann attended the event with her brother Anthony, a CAPA student, who felt the artwork showcased was amazing.
Nasiyah, age 10, is one of these artists. She drew a dragon and a wolf. Elbert, age 21, performed a miming piece. This was the first performance I saw when I walked into the event, and I was taken by the depth and sincerity of the young man’s movement. Afterwards, I learned that Elbert’s mother teaches him his art form. He explained that the song he chose to accompany his performance, “God Is Here” by Karen Clark-Sheard, “means a lot, it gives me motivation. Keeps my head up. Helps me to be grateful in the present moment.”
Many artists sold their pieces, such as Queen, age 22. “The ones that sold are the ones that really meant something to me … I’m so happy to know that people are interested in my feelings.”
“Art is an important way to communicate. It’s an outlet,” Queen shared, before concluding that the evening had left her speechless.
Artist Tomika expressed similar sentiments. “A lot of my art brings out a new side of me. It inspires a lot of other people, like me, who face homelessness. … I’m very passionate about expressing your gifts, because that’s what kept me alive.”
“It’s a great way to bring the community together,” she continued. “It’s better to connect with people who struggled like me, because it brings humility and compassion and a loving nature. … Society’s ways of viewing homeless people – it deteriorates a lot of the connection, and it’s like we have to be there for each other.”
“We see each other as brothers and sisters.”
This sense of community, closeness, and importance was woven through the entire event. Some artists, like the Unity Performance Company, vogued with professionally choreographed flare. Still others ventured spontaneously into the spotlight with cheers of support from the crowd. All were recognized, and all had an impact on the evening. We Live Here Too was filled with an atmosphere of support, made that way by putting young people on center stage.
A young man by the name of Del Vaughn said it with a particular grace:
Your pain I feel
Just know I am here
Never give up
Strive for the best
If we help each other
No one will get left.”
For more information on the Homeless Children’s Education Fund (HCEF) and ways to support their work, please visit homelessfund.org. Plus, keep an eye out for another HCEF gallery event coming this Spring!