Most families call an apartment, a house, or condo a home. Several individuals have made a home in the most unlikely place—under a bridge in St. Charles County.
A group of men and women have set up camp underneath a highway bridge, utilizing the beams to hang their jackets, clothing and sleeping bags. Old, worn out sheets have been hung to separate living spaces. A blanket covers the hard concrete floor to protect bread and food from the outdoor elements. Discarded sofa cushions and a broken down futon act as a bed from the unforgiving ground. Amid the makeshift home, a bible rests on the ground, a sign that faith has not been forgotten.
Sonnet has lived on the street for the last three years. Most recently she took shelter in a tent popped up under a bridge in St. Charles County.
“I wish the general public understood that it could be you. One bad choice can change your life,” said Sonnet. “Just acknowledge the fact that we are human.”
These homeless community members are looking for work, and flying signs begging drivers for assistance in the interim. These men and women struggle for the most basic needs—food and shelter. Many visit the Salvation Army for hot meals, and Showers of Blessing for a weekly shower. Often the only other food they receive is from the Sts. Joachim & Ann Street Outreach case manager.
This ‘home’ is In Plain Sight of hundreds of cars that pass by this bridge on a daily basis. Yet, many still believe there are no homeless in St. Charles County.
To reveal the reality of homelessness in our community, Sts. Joachim & Ann Care Service launched its In Plain Sight – Homelessness Exposed project in April. The project provided homeless members of the community with a disposable camera and a mission—to tell their story from the street.
“People pass them every day, but one of the biggest questions I am asked is – “are there really homeless people in our area?” We want to shine a bright light exposing homelessness in our area, and provide an outlet for these members of our community who are not hiding, but are In Plain Sight. We also hope this project will raise funds to directly assist the homeless members of the community find safe and affordable housing,” said Pam Struckhoff, director of program services at Sts. Joachim & Ann Care Service.
Photographers had seven days to tell their story through pictures before returning the camera to the Care Service. The photographers received a t-shirt with ‘photographer’ emblazoned on the back, a $10 fast food gift card and a backpack stocked with toiletries for their participation in this innovative and eye-opening project.
Sonnet took photos of her living space—under the bridge—and the places she travels for food and showers. Her bright orange tent tucked into the corner of the bridge shows the reality of her only shelter. Taking a shower is not a simple task, but requires Sonnet to travel to a park restroom or truck stop to clean up.
Her favorite photos, however, are of her friends sleeping. Sleep is a brief respite for those living on the streets.
“It’s the most peaceful time—for a short time,” said Sonnet. “It’s a break from reality; especially when you are sober—that’s why a lot of people turn to drugs and alcohol.”
Hundreds of photos were developed and a team of community judges narrowed it down to the top 20 photos which are on currently on public display at the St. Peters Cultural Arts Centre until August 20. Visitors of the display have the opportunity to vote for their favorite photo via a donation while taking a self-guided auditory tour that explains the backstory of the photo.
In Plain Sight will culminate with an evening event on August 19 that will include a live auction of the portraits at the St. Peters Cultural Arts Centre. The top three winning portraits will receive a beneficial prize based on their individual needs. Additional photos from the homeless photographers will be available as a travelling display to local venues, churches and community agencies following the auction.
Local sponsors of In Plain Sight – Homelessness Exposed include Barnes-Jewish St. Peters & Progress West Hospitals, Ameren Missouri, Calvary Church, Behlmann Automotive – Troy, the Annual Catholic Appeal, Winning Technologies, and Mercy.
For more information or to become a sponsor, contact Karen Grant, Director of Development, at (636) 441-1302, ext. 263. Tickets can be purchased online through https://.InPlainSight.live or by phone.