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Thea and her children are featured in one of several photos as part of an exhibit on homelessness. The traveling exhibit is on display now through the end of the month at the United Way of Douglas and Pope Counties office in Alexandria. (Contributed/Kris Drake)

Homelessness is a real life issue that happens across the state. A traveling exhibit, “Homeless is My Address… Not My Name,” will bring the issue to the Alexandria area this month.

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It’s a collection of portrait photography and first-person narratives; the photos and stories were collected from people who have experienced homelessness in Minnesota.

The United Way of Douglas and Pope Counties will host the exhibit and an open house on Thursday, December 12 from 3 to 6 p.m. at their office, located at 503 Hawthorne Street, Suite 131, in Alexandria.

Jessica Boyer, executive director of United Way of Douglas and Pope Counties, said what she finds most striking about the exhibit is that anyone coming through the door could see themselves and relate to one photo or another.

“The noise and the priorities of our culture often drown out the voices of our most marginalized neighbors. This exhibit brings those voices and the stories they tell to the surface,” she noted.

The Oral History of Homelessness compiled the project and documents homelessness in Minnesota through first-person narratives and portrait photography.

Each photo will include a phone number that visitors can call to hear the person in the photo tell his or her story, beginning with their name and where they stayed last night.

The exhibit is currently up at the United Way office and will remain on display until the end of the month.


United Way’s Community Impact Coalition has been working with local partners to bring more awareness to the homeless issues in Douglas and Pope counties.

Last January 13, Housing and Urban Development sponsored a Point-In-Time Homeless Count. The Alexandria area had 42 families with children and two single adults that met the national definition of homelessness.

Boyer noted, “These numbers are used to represent the number of people who are homeless on any given day in Alexandria.  However, there is speculation on using this as representative of our homeless population, as agencies receive most homeless requests in the late fall, before the unbearably cold weather comes to Minnesota.”

On January 24, 2012 volunteers were able to locate 115 individuals in Douglas County that were homeless; 75 were children.

Amy Chaffins

Amy Chaffins is a journalist working for the Echo Press newspaper in Alexandria, Minnesota.

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