NO CALL FOR PITYThe ResidentsSharyn Jordan--1993 & 1998Sharyn Jordan Holland, 2001Donald Ray OliverCarl Green, 1992Carl Green, 2001Ruby MonroeFamiliesMark DunfordNext


Edie writes . . .

A local group has commissioned me to design a collage for a T-shirt. It was my promise to include drawings of children in the collage that brought me to Genesis Home, a facility that takes in homeless families.

Working with families has turned out to be difficult in ways I hadn’t anticipated. At the Durham Community Shelter for H.O.P.E., where I’ve been drawing and interviewing individuals for several years, I am greeted with enthusiasm, both by people I’ve drawn and talked to and by others who know me only by sight. But at Genesis Home, I am not met as warmly. So far, nobody has really opened up to me.

It is the mothers, in particular, who seem guarded. Perhaps it is because they know so little about me. Or perhaps they don’t want their face, name and story in a book, broadcasting to the world that they and their children are homeless. Maybe their guardedness springs from a desire to protect their children. Being a mother myself, I can understand that concern, and maybe I should respect it more. But it does leave me in a tough spot with this project.

I did manage to persuade a few mothers to let me interview their children in a group. When I chatted with the mothers in the kitchen just before the interview, I felt an undercurrent of anxiety from them concerning what I might put their children through. In particular, they didn’t want me to use the word “homeless” when talking to their children. They coached me to say, “Now that you don’t have your own house . . . .”

Looking back, it seems their anxiety had to do not only with the potential impact of my project on their children, but also with how the children perceived their present situation and how they, as mothers, wanted the world to perceive their family.

All in all, I don’t think the women liked the word “homeless.”

        —Edie Cohn, 1994


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