The featured artist(s) at Metropolis Cafe this month: some of the coolest kids in the world creating art as a way to deal with teen homelessness.
They are participants in Unspoken Words, a summer program that serves as a platform for homeless youth to speak out and raise awareness of their situation. We couldn’t be more thrilled with the exhibit, provided by One Heart One Soul (OHOS), which “provides voices for communities that are subject to social injustice and the organizations that work with them,” says OHOS founder, Mireya Trejo. “The art program helps them be more expressive and they realize this isn’t a one-day, arts-and-crafts thing. It’s an opportunity for them to speak out in a positive and productive manner. They wake up every Saturday and think, ‘What are we working on today?’”
Currently on display at Metropolis Cafe are varied takes on urban art, full of meaning for the artists. “A lot of the pieces are about being discriminated against,” says Trejo. “They speak about their sexual preference, instability in the home, or just their environment.”
OHOS works closely with a teen-centered shelter in the Bronzeville neighborhood of Chicago, Teen Living Programs. “There are 24 kids in the shelter and anywhere from eight to 13 of them join us every Saturday,” says Trejo, going on to note why teen homeless can use a bit of specialized help. “A lot of shelters allow teenagers and 18 year olds but don’t have programs set for them. At that age, you’re in high school or leaving high school, trying to get a job and financial stability.
“There are adult issues and there are teen issues; we focus on the latter,” she continues. Trejo pioneers programs, it’s what she does, among other things. During the winter, she and other volunteers collect winter wear and allocate it to those in need. She doesn’t sit around much and her philosophy: “I hug the world!”
Heart In The Game
Her hug is contagious, as she’s getting support from a team of people drawn to her efforts and helping achieve the mission of One Heart One Soul: “to draw together members of the Chicago-area community to accomplish projects that will help raise awareness and eliminate misconceptions of often overlooked social issues. Our goal is to provide opportunities for people to become actively involved and gain perspective of the issues existing in their own neighborhoods. We are dedicated to the belief that help from many brings hope to all.”
Members of this team include OHOS board members Jennifer Lopez and Manny Delgado, who Trejo calls the “backbone” of the program. Trejo wanted to put a special thanks out to urban artist Carl F. Kuck, who volunteered to teach a couple classes but decided not to stop there, to keep teaching. “And all of the teachers involved, who dedicated their time and made a difference–Jonathon Pollard, Marco the Poet, Unspoken, and Norma Jean,” adds Trejo.
Like any worthwhile charitable effort, it takes resources to make it happen. At this point, the arts program has another four to five weeks coming, for sure, and possibly that much again if donations flow in to help make it happen. A recent fundraiser at Butterfly Social Lounge featured Kuck painting on the spot and a documentary created by one of the teens dealing with how teen homeless happens and her quest to find a path out of it.
Robert Morris University also stepped up recently, providing each of the youths with a camera for two weeks, the resultant photos being showcased as pictures of life through their eyes. “That was huge and very appreciated,” says Trejo. “Now the question is, who will step up next?”
Why OHOS and why Trejo? “I started the organization through the winter drive I did in Chicago in 2010 and realized a lot of people want to get involved but don’t know how to do so. I create projects so people will get involved. The first winter drive we did, I had over 75 first-time volunteers and they felt it was simple, enjoyable and a good cause. These are people who have started the habit of volunteering at other places.
“The goal is for this to be successful and duplicated in different communities; right now it’s only in Bronzeville, but there are plenty of other shelters housing youth,” continues Trejo. “Anyone is welcome…YOU are welcome to bring this to a different shelter in a different community.”
Trejo says there are about 15,000 homeless people in Chicago and about 4,000 shelter beds available, so “…there are 11,000 people we go out to look for and interact with on a regular basis.”
Come out Aug. 27 to make a difference yourself: meet the artists, see their work! Place TBD; email email@example.com to RSVP.
When not working tirelessly for her cause: “I’m a nerd, I would probably go to the bookstore with jazz music playing in the background.