Faces of homelessness displayed on Seattle buildings

KING 5's Heather Graf reports.

Look up on Friday and Saturday evenings and you might see them: the faces of homelessness being projected on the sides of tall buildings throughout Seattle.

Seattle's Union Gospel Mission partnered with British photographer Lee Jeffries to create the outdoor art exhibit.  It's designed to draw attention to Seattle's homeless crisis, one powerful portrait at a time.

Organizers call the display Lost Angels. They say it's easy to look away when you encounter someone who is homeless, but averting your gaze is a bit more difficult when faced with an image that's 10 stories tall.

"That's what we want the images to do. We want to put it out there so people stop and look at it and by looking up they realize wait a minute, this is another human being," said Seattle's Union Gospel Mission President Jeff Lilley.  "And we've got to think about that and say what are we going to do about this? How do we address this problem that's confronting our city?"

Jeffries has been photographing the homeless for 10 years. His photos have been seen all over the world.

But he says this is the first time his work has been displayed on the facades of buildings and landmarks.

"We came up with the idea to take the images to the street where the people have come from, so the majority of people can see them on an intimate basis, and realize this is a human problem not a statistical one," said Jeffries.

The statistics are scary: more than 11,600 people were tallied in King County's most recent homeless count. On any given night 5,485 of those people are sleeping on the streets.

The images will be displayed on Friday and Saturday evening. To learn exactly where and when you can view the exhibit, click here.  

"I've experienced homelessness pretty much throughout most of my adult life, in other states and here.  And I went downhill fast, through my addiction and mental health issues not being addressed," Mike Cook said.

He's one of the many homeless people who agreed to have their portraits taken and be part of the outdoor art exhibit. Joel Verhamme is another.

"I was in my addiction, using on and off, living on the streets in Seattle," said Verhamme, who still remembers the day he chose to turn his life around.  "I told them look, I have a problem, I have a drug problem, I'm homeless right now and I want help."

Cook and Verhamme said they like to think their portraits and this art exhibit will help give hope to those still living on the streets.

"It's a way to put faces out there, to show a face and let people know they're not just statistics. They're not numbers. They're people," said Cook. "People that were in bad circumstances, maybe circumstances beyond their control.  But there is hope out there too."

© 2017 KING-TV


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