325 Strangers’ Hands

look closely, stories behind their faces (Creator: Momo Lin. 2018 Fall)

What, who, myself

Serving kitchen meals (Union Gospel Mission, Hasting St.) for people (majority: homeless people) with food ticket was selected as group activity while each member had different role. I contacted volunteer program manager for such guest volunteer experience; furthermore, my roles included: 1) prepare food in kitchen 2) collect meal tickets 3) provide cutlery. My position allowed me to have the very first interactions with people who were waiting in line for meals on that night. Other members were behind kitchen window to provide food on their plates. I saw strangers’ hands when hand them cutlery, their emotions behind their eyes (perhaps their stories behind their physical, mental struggles). Many had substance abuse disorders, one regular volunteer said. Throughout activity, I worried about where they would sleep after meals, how they could make sure they have meals tomorrow, touched by their appreciation through a simple word ‘Thank you’. Staff member showed me their dedication, positive attitudes through their smiles, polite words. Experience allows me to put into artwork: 1) hand prints represents 325 hands that I interacted 2) 5 photos show emotions that I observed through their eyes: frustration, anger, overwhelming-ness, helplessness and numbness (left to right on artwork). Red dots represent the limited kindness as connection to those who needed help. That day, we served 325 people in total.

Ideas, concepts

Substance abuse, homeless people (Vancouver Downtown, Hasting St.), and stigma, discrimination are key points that inspired me to do the artwork. Latest report said the homeless people number was at 2181 while many had relationship with substance use (alcohol, cocaine etc.) that introduced them street-life (Didenko & Pankratz, 2015; Howell, 2018). In class, aboriginal people and minority were mentioned their life dealing with additional burdens when they faced substance abuse and low-socioeconomic status (social determinants: housing, food etc.) at the same time (Goldner, Jenkins, & Bilsker, 2011). Activity allowed me to observe, interact with people in the street and experienced the local homeless people issues in Vancouver, Canada.


Prior to activity, I expected to witness some violent situations where staff need to intervene, and I thought about how rude they could be due to their frustration with addiction, substance abuse etc. However, what I saw were their being overwhelmed, frustrated, angry, numb; meanwhile, I felt their appreciation towards volunteers and staff. They are human beings who are struggling with things that I am not familiar with; however, they still, at some point, had families, friends, jobs, dreams etc. They are painted with stigma in society. What I saw was the need to help them, empathized with them. This artwork represents my empathy to show their struggles through visual effects.

Didenko, E., & Pankratz, N. (2015). Substance Use: Pathways to homelessness? Or a way of adapting to street life? Retrieved 2 November 2018, from http://www.heretohelp.bc.ca/visions/housing-and-homelessness-vol4/substance-use- pathways-homelessness

Goldner, E. M., Jenkins, E., & Bilsker, D. (2011). A CONCISE INTRODUCTION TO MENTAL HEALTH IN CANADA (2nd ed.). Toronto: Canadian Scholars’ Press.

Howell, M. (2018). Vancouver’s record-breaking homeless population at 2181 people. Retrieved 2 November 2018, from https://www.vancourier.com/news/vancouver-s-record-breaking- homeless-population-at-2-181-people-1.23288639