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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

    Caught in the ACT

    <ve you been wondering what the pictures on 4th Libe are all about? This exhibit, Portraits of Home: Veterans in Search of Shelter, documents the living conditions of homeless veterans in greater Minnesota. The exhibit was brought to Carleton as a part of the ACT Center’s 2009 Civic Engagement Series. Each year the ACT Center sponsors a month-long Civic Engagement Series focused on an issue relating to social justice. This year's theme is Society and Health. The issue of health isn't restricted to our hospitals and clinics; it is affected by numerous social relationships and phenomena. Looking at various dynamics within society, we can gain a clearer perspective of what Health means. This series seeks to increase awareness of the social conditions in our local community, in the U.S., and abroad that affect health. In doing so, we hope to encourage you to take an active part in making real change.

    Portraits of Home: Veterans in Search of Shelter focuses on a social group that is often overlooked: homeless veterans. To celebrate the opening of this exhibit, ACT sponsored a panel of speakers in the Athaneum on Monday, February 2nd. This panel consisted of three individuals with varying perspectives on the issue of veteran homelessness. Susan Sorenson, regional director of the Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans (MACV), spoke about efforts toward improvements in veteran assistance in Southwestern Minnesota. Since 1994, MACV has worked to help veterans and their families affected by homelessness in Minnesota by providing transitional housing, daily meals, and basic services. Many of the individuals photographed in the Portraits of Home exhibit make use of such services in order to maintain basic standards of living.

    The second and third speakers gave insights into the concept of social art and its role in activism. Carlos Gonzales, staff photographer for the Star Tribune, spoke about his experience in preparing for the Portraits of Home exhibit. He spent a day with a homeless veteran in Marshall, Minnesota, documenting his daily life. The main thing Carlos remembered about this particular veteran was his loneliness. Unable to find gainful employment and criminalized by his vagrancy, the veteran lived alone in his car outside of town. George Slade, curator for the exhibit, compiled Carlos’ photographs along with those of five other photographers. Though the ultimate goal of this exhibit is to raise awareness of the needs of homeless veterans in Minnesota, both George and Carlos commented on the reality of their work. When Carlos was taking his pictures or when George was compiling the exhibit, they were not trying to put a spin on the issue or guilt people into helping. They just wanted to document the issue as it really exists. With that in mind, take some time and view these images in the library. These are real people with real issues that live within hours of Carleton’s campus. If we take the first step and acknowledge that there is a problem, we can then begin to move toward real change.

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