Dani Finger, Isiah Zagar, David and Leah
(image by Cory Clark)
Dani Raising money for her show
(image by Cory Clark)
But as talented as these two are, it is the stories they tell about their time on the streets that are the most important, not just for society but for themselves as well, their love for the people they've met and the contempt for those who look down on the poor is evident in their eyes. Both of them wear their hearts and their politics on their sleeves.
"Being homeless is a physical and emotional hell, everything about it is denigrating to the the human spirit, the way people judge the homeless without knowing the horrors they've seen, the discrimination, the brutal cold in the winter and the blazing heat in the summer, constant exposure to elements can destroy a person's body, then there is the discrimination, being denied the ability to use the bathroom when you need to, being told you're unwelcome places even if you buy something because of your bags or how you look," said Finger about the rigors of living on the street.
"But it's more than just the physical hardships that get to you, the way people look at you, their hatred for you, we have a friend who overheard church people talking off by themselves at Franklin Park about how much they hated coming out there, because the homeless stink so badly. I've personally had a woman clutch her purse, just because I mentioned to another homeless person, who was asking me for money, that I was homeless, and offering him the rest of the food I had. I had been behind her for some time prior, without incident," Clark adds.
Solidarity: on Exhibition at The District Gallery
(image by Cory Clark)
"A lot of the people out here are mentally ill, and if you're not when you start you're at risk of becoming so, if you're not acutely aware of this fact, is it any wonder that some people out here turn to drugs, there are a lot of reasons people become homeless, but once you're out here it's a real hat trick to get off the streets, between the bureaucracy, discrimination in employment the entire system is designed to keep the poor in their place," said Clark.
"We have several friends who have gotten themselves jobs against the odds, but were fired for their homelessness, one was fired because he had to bring his bags to work everyday, because he had no place to put them that was safe, but people will tell you get a job, what about those people who have done that but can't keep it because they're on the streets, these people just don't get it's just not that damned easy without the stability of a place to call home," continued Finger.
Clark and Finger want to get off the streets and continue to produce work around the issues that inspire them, but are unwilling to compromise their values even for their own sanity.
Cory Clark at the Occupy Chicago Office working
(image by Dani Finger)
"We came out here for a reason, and failure isn't an option for us, millions of people are out here suffering due to ignorance, apathy, and a bureaucratic machine that is only perpetuating itself and the problems it claims to want to fix, our success will mean that people have to start paying attention and truly working to fix the problems associated with poverty, moldy sandwiches, and system of shelters aren't solving anything, community gardens, food independence, and the reclamation of abandoned buildings and houses, there refurbishment and remodeling into apartments for the homeless is, there is no excuse to have 18 abandoned homes per a homeless person, and under those conditions, there is no excuse for there to be a single person forced to sleep on the streets," said Clark.
There is an opportunity for communities to fight back against the problems they're facing every day and for mayors and city councils to change the dynamics of how they deal with the homeless and poverty in their cities.
Housing-first programs have been shown to work everywhere they have been implemented.
Housing is a significant factor in reducing mental illness, addictive and impulsive behaviors, as well as anxiety and depression. Creating a stable environment for people who need treatment, whereas homelessness creates an environment that makes treatment extremely difficult if not at times impossible.
Housing is also shown to play a significant role in reducing isolation, improving family relationships, community involvement, empowering people to take control of their lives.
"Everyone deserves to have their human needs met as a condition of their right to life, and to criminalize the victims of poverty only serves to perpetuate poverty so that corporations and non profits can continue to profit off the suffering of class it creates, implementing a housing for all program would save the government a ton of money in the long run, get the mental health crisis this country is facing under control and put millions of people to work boosting the economy long enough to get a real economic up turn to take hold, I don't understand the problem here, said Clark.
So far their message has been well received, people stopped by regularly to watch finger paint a piece about food independence as she paints on a street corner, Clark had a successful opening with one of his photographs selling in the first week of the exhibition.