I’ve written about my relationship with the tenants of Moore Place many times over the last year, but it can’t hurt to tell the story again one last time.
Last fall, I traveled from Anchorage, Alaska to Charlotte, North Carolina for a two month long artist residency through a partnership between the Rasmusson Foundation and the McColl Center for Art + Innovation.
The McColl Center’s operating philosophy encourages the artists in residence to engage with the community of Charlotte in a meaningful way.
It was suggested that I might be interested in making a community quilt with the tenants of Moore Place. Moore Place is a Housing Works project run by the Urban Ministry Center.
All of these organizations are advocates for compassionate approaches to ending homelessness in Charlotte.
Moore Place is a permanent housing facility for 85 formerly chronically homeless individuals.
Not only is Moore Place permanent housing, it is also wrap around services to help the residents get the education, job training, health and medical services they need.
The end result is success for everyone. Housing First programs like Moore Place have been studied and documented–they help individuals get off the streets and become healthy, happy, and productive while also saving the tax payers money.
Moore Place is amazing, and I consider myself very fortunate to have had the opportunity to document the residents and their journey in a community quilt.
Every Tuesday afternoon for two months, I would load up a mini-van with sewing machines, supplies, ironing boards and irons.
I would set up a mini-SEW SHOP where tenants could make pillow cases, tote bags, and other simple sewing projects for their apartments.
While stitching, we learned about each other and began the conversation about what a quilt made by the residents of Moore Place might look like.
I shared examples of other community quilts I have made.
I believe taking the two months to build this relationship was essential to the success of the project.
I needed to understand how Moore Place worked and what the residents were like.
They needed to know they could trust me and the work I wanted to do.
In all honesty, I wasn’t sure how it would all go down. I might spend two months making pillow cases, and we would never make quilt blocks.
I might not get to be the conduit I wanted to be for this quilt. The residents of Moore Place could have decided they didn’t want me to tell their story in cloth. The residents surprised me with their generosity and willingness to share themselves.
I do believed they are the examples, the front line, of how individuals can go from homelessness to home.
Supporting formerly homeless individuals by giving them the opportunity to have a home–I should say here, that the residents do PAY for their apartments–is a compassionate approach to homelessness and it WORKS.
And the residents of Moore Place who made quilt blocks are all saying to the world–look at us. We were homeless, but we no longer are. We are grateful for the compassion you have showed us. This approach has allowed us to get healthy, to get sober, to get an education, to get jobs.
I very much believe that the way we treat the members of our society who need help says clearly what kind of community, state, nation we are.
Moore Place, its tenants, its staff, its community are really shiny examples of what we all could be.
I have spent this past week back in Charlotte, North Carolina. The first 24 hours were spent doing finishing work on the quilt.
It is a large quilt measuring 107 inches wide by 76 inches long. The facings and four hanging sleeves took more than 12 hours to hand stitch in place.
On Tuesday we went to Moore Place to hang the quilt. How many people does it take to hang a large quilt up high? Well, at least four, maybe more.
On Thursday, we had a celebration of the quilt.
The turn out was good. There were lots of community members and lots tenants. Katie Church, Tenant Services Coordinator at Moore Place, welcomed everyone who gathered for the celebration.
Lisa Hoffman, Associate Director of the McColl Center, explained how we all came together to support this project.
And I got the good job of announcing all the artists who participated in the quilt. There were 32 quilt blocks made.
And now, the quilt HOME is indeed home. This entire process has made me realize that there is true value for everyone involved if artists get to work with marginalized communities in meaningful ways.Now, how do I make that happen? AGAIN.
This ending is another beginning. I just think that it is.