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ArtPrize installation places spotlight on homeless community’s struggles

A ministry that works to support Grand Rapids’ homeless community unveiled a walkthrough exhibit that gives an idea of the everyday struggles they might endure.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A local ministry is using art to call attention to the hardships those within the homeless community often face.

Mel Trotter Ministries’ “A Walk in Their Shoes” exhibit made its return to ArtPrize Thursday, with a number of mockups showing how those experiencing homelessness live.

“It really does cover a majority of what the folks who we serve experience on a day-to-day basis,” said MTM Chief Advancement Officer Beth Fisher. “I think it's important, not only of a reminder, but of an educational piece as well.”

Fisher said people tend to make assumptions about the situations those in the homeless population are going through.

“Here, what we're doing is – hopefully – through this installation, saying, ‘Here's something that you may not have considered.’ We'd love for people to walk away and just think, ‘Wow, I had no idea, I didn't know that as an example,’” she said. “It takes single parents 77 working hours a week to afford a two-bedroom apartment at minimum wage – that's really what we're talking about.”

The exhibit ranged from a lived-in car to tents, as well as an illustration of how homelessness can take a toll on students’ education.

Fisher, reflecting on a staff member who joined the nonprofit as a result of the exhibit many years ago, hopes the work continues to inspire.

“Really, that's what art is meant to do — to speak to us in ways that we're not even anticipating that it can do,” Fisher said. “When you're moved by something that really changes the course and trajectory of your life and her case — it changed the career choice that she made, and she absolutely has been an invaluable member of our staff, and she just continues to say to people, ‘It was art that brought me to this experience.’”

For more information on Mel Trotter Ministries or to donate, visit their website.

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