Billboard campaign for homeless has personal connection
When Jessica Crute’s father ended up on the streets, she had no idea it would one day serve as the catalyst for a national billboard campaign that spotlights the plight of the homeless.
Her father’s homeless quandary is the driving force behind Voice of the Homeless Awareness Project (www.jwulff.com), a billboard art campaign Crute of Midtown founded with the intent of making it a nationwide promotion, starting in Houston.
Crute hopes to start seeing the billboards displayed sometime this month if she can raise the requisite $11,400 to make the campaign nationwide.
“My vision for the organization and the billboard campaign is to be both rooted in the arts and in Christian ministry so when people see the billboards, they’ll learn more about the project and find a message of God’s love,” says Crute, a graduate student at the University of Houston who’s pursing a master’s of fine art in photography.
“In talking with those without a home or who struggled with homelessness, there’s a consensus that people need to care more. It’s not that people don’t know homelessness is an issue, but they need to demonstrate they care enough to be involved and find a solution.”
Crute believes her awareness campaign became all the more important when the Houston City Council decided on April 4 by a 11 to 6 vote to amend an ordinance that makes it illegal to feed the homeless in the central business district without permission from property owners. Crute said this makes it illegal for someone to stop and give food to a homeless person desperate for food.
The city council’s decision isn’t exclusive to Houston, says Crute.
“It’s actually being passed across the nation, not just in Houston,” says Crute. “It was passed in Dallas and in Philadelphia.
“I think it’s not a solution to the problem but creating a problem within a problem — making it more difficult to feed those in need. This (ordinance) is not the right thing to do.”
Such a law is a sobering reminder of what could have potentially ended the life of her father, Paul Crute Sr. who for six months roamed the streets in Dallas, beginning in December 2010.
The loss of his job, his own father’s struggle with Alzheimer’s and a sister’s battle with cancer became the tipping point in Paul Crute’s life that resulted in his homelessness.
If not for the kindness of strangers who fed him from time to time, Jessica Crute’s father may no longer be alive.
Her father’s experience became the reason why Jessica Crute in September 2011 hit the streets of Dallas and in the Houston area and wrote down the insights of those without a fixed address. Some of those insights will serve as the words for the Voice of the Homeless billboard campaign.
“One woman in a wheelchair told me, ‘Do not continue to treat the homeless mean and with disrespect because it may happen to you,’” recalls Crute.
ABOUT JESSICA CRUTE
OCCUPATION: University of Houston graduate student and founder of the Voice of the Homeless Awareness Project
FAST FACT: Taught English to underprivileged children in Salvador, Brazil in October 2010, which served as the basis for a cross-cultural photography series titled, “We Are The Same” which explores nonverbal communication’s ability to transcend cultural boundaries.
Paul R. Kopenkoskey is a freelance writer. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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