This article originally appeared on King5.com.
SEATTLE – It’s the portrait of Phillip Jones that reminds Shelby Powell of the past but why she will fight in the future. Powell, 36 and an Antioch University Seattle Psychology Major, found joy in painting during one of the toughest times of her life: the months trying to find a home.
“The thing that kept me going was art therapy,” Powell said. “Creating art and being able to express myself when I didn’t always have the words … paint … It kind of helped me continue.”
Powell said she experienced homelessness from September 2011 until January 2012. Now, after painting a portrait of the man she’s seen around Seattle, she reminds herself of her desire to be an advocate for those still faced with homelessness.
“I care because of Phillip Jones,” she said about the portrait. “I see him everywhere when I’m downtown. I see him still in the same position he was in last year.”
Powell’s passion has been reignited after taking a class about homelessness at Antioch University Seattle. The class, led by David Bloom, is aimed at helping students understand the causes of homelessness on both the personal and societal levels and encourage them to come up with strategies for ending it.
“They came into the course with, what I think, is a pretty good understanding of the issue,” Bloom said Wednesday night. “There wasn’t a lot of naivety, is the word I would use, about homelessness. They had a pretty clear understanding of both causes and solutions – so if anything what we’ve done is to go deeper.”
Classmates visited one of Seattle’s tent cities, spoke with local activists and experts and Wednesday night, they presented their findings to city council members and other leaders around the county.
“Many people have blamed addiction and mental illness as the reason I was homeless and I’ve learned in this class that it’s a two-way street,” said Kayla Seamster. “If treatment and safe housing was as easy as walking into a bar homelessness would dramatically decrease.”