The Living Room video

Meet Grace

Before the pandemic my friend Ruth and I used to show up at The Living Room after the hot lunch was served, and armed with our bags of art supplies, lead an expressive arts group. One of the women who would drop in was Grace. She usually had to leave early to pick up her kids at school, though at least once I remember she was able to bring her daughter with her.

I was impressed with how competent she seemed, even in the midst of what I knew was a housing crisis similar to that of the other women. She would sit down, immediately engage in the art with little need for instruction, express her gratitude for the opportunity and be on her way before we wrapped up.

Months later I ran into her outside The Living Room and she agreed to share her story for the portrait project. 

She was housed and juggling a demanding schedule of work and childcare with the added element of supervising Zoom instruction for two children at home. We finally found some time to talk so I could hear her story. As with all the portrait stories I’ve done, the final story that goes with the art piece is a seriously abbreviated portion of a person’s life.

To see more of the portraits in the series “This is My Story: Women and Homelessness” you may visit the exhibit on the Santa Rosa Arts website.

If you’d like to know more about The Living Room in the context of constantly changing needs in the homeless community, watch this video which presents a look at their open-hearted response to the pandemic!

Click here to watch!

Meet Isabel

I first met Isabel a couple years ago when I first started volunteering at The Living Room. I was allowed to sit in on the close “knit” group of women who were knitting, crocheting and doing other fiber arts projects (back in the day when it was possible to sit close around a table inside in cold weather).

The group was composed of women who had been or were homeless or otherwise at risk. The leader was a much loved woman named Mary who came with supplies and participated equally in the free flowing conversation.

In the hour plus that I was there I sketched like mad to get as much of the action as possible, while absorbing the feeling of intimacy, comradeship and healing generated by this group.

With very little time to put color on, I splashed it on where it was most evident. The colorful woman in the middle was Isabel, and I hoped I would meet her later and be able to do a portrait story. Isabel was very private, but finally agreed to tell me something about her life for the portrait project.

Isabel’s is a story of great endurance, and one which was not easy for her to tell. It involves so much loss, discrimination and unfairness, yet she has found her way.

The knitting group has not been able to meet since the Covid outbreak, and access to zoom for these women is not generally an option.

However the Living Room continues to find new ways to engage with women and children at risk. Each time I stop by, I hear of their new efforts to adjust to the challenges of pandemic times. 

To see more of my portrait stories from The Living Room visit the This is My Story: Women and Homelessness gallery on the Santa Rosa Arts website