Homelessness in Colorado

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What does the word ‘home’ mean to you?

This question was answered by elementary students at the entrance to History Colorado’s new exhibit, Searching for a Home: Homelessness in Colorado. Many of us think we know what it means to have a home, be the picture in your head of the house you’ve had for 20 years, your family, or your pets, but what about that unwashed looking man on the street corner with the cardboard sign? This exhibit explores what ‘home’ means, and could mean, to these thousands of street-roamers and HUD defined homeless in Colorado.

The exhibit is showcased on the underground floor, and truly begins as soon as you begin the descent. The hallways outside this rather small exhibit showcase pictures relating to the exhibit and topic including pictures of Daddy Randolph and his restaurant, and multiple series depicting the homeless, some of their belonging, and places these people are forced to sleep.

Once inside the exhibit, displays and informations from the 1800’s to today are divided into four primary struggles that have always faced the homeless: safety, health, relationships, and shelter. While the exhibit does go into great detail on Baby Doe’s rise and fall to greatness, as well as some of the housing problems faced by miners attracted to the then small town Denver, most of the parts from 2015 focus on youth homelessness and the struggle that many single moms face on the streets.

While there are some essays written by anthropologists on homelessness, much of the exhibit is visual, containing things such as Baby Doe’s dresses from her wealthy period and her impoverished one, and a collection of cardboard signs from 2011-2015. There are also autobiographical notes on homeless from homeless people around Colorado, and interactive exhibits such a support system made of Jenga blocks and “What would you do?” situations set up around the exhibit.

This exhibit, designed by museum staff and social workers and former homeless, shines a spotlight on the homelessness problem in this state through artifacts, letters, interactive set-ups, and places where you can write your own thoughts on homelessness and leave them for other visitors to see.

This exhibit, despite its discussion of more serious problems, is appropriate for kids, and while it is not something a very small child would find interesting, it would be an engaging way for anyone 8 and up to spend an afternoon. Aimed at families, this exhibit explores what it means to be homeless in different scenarios and times.