Samaritan House has residents’ dignity down to an art

Samaritan House shelter residents' art work is displayed at the Sam's Supper benefit last year.
Samaritan House shelter residents' art work is displayed at the Sam's Supper benefit last year.

Shelter’s art and music program helps residents find renewed self-worth

More than a place for a hot meal and warm bed, Samaritan House shows residents the fine art of dignity.

Shelter case manager Eric Johnston launched an art and music program two years ago to help reacquaint homeless residents with society and find a renewed sense of dignity.

“Art doesn’t care what your background is and where you’ve been,” Johnston said. “Every one of these residents has a story to tell that is often filled with tragedy and many things that are just out of their control. I want them to know that their self-expression is very special. That’s where I find value in bringing the arts to this population.”

Johnston, who has a bachelor’s degree in English literature and is a musician, said that homeless populations often feel voiceless. The arts can serve as a forum for their self-expression and help them realize their self-worth.

The weekly program offers residents the chance to learn the basics of art, learn from guest musicians, discuss Shakespeare and tour one of Denver’s art walks.

Some of the residents’ art work will be displayed during the Sam’s Supper benefit dinner on Aug. 25 at Mile High Station downtown. The second annual Sam’s Supper event, ‘The Meal that Serves Many’, benefits residents of Samaritan House, a Catholic Charities ministry.

Guests at Sam’s Supper can view the artwork and purchase it to help support the art and music program.

“The great thing about the gallery at Sam’s Supper is that it’s a great forum for people to see that there is so much talent at the shelter,” Johnston said. “And there is so much that these people have to offer and give.”

Individuals and families experiencing homelessness have value to society, he said.

“Just because someone is experiencing homelessness and is at Samaritan House doesn’t mean they’re any less of a person,” said Johnston. “These residents are experiencing unfortunate circumstances, but the root is that they are still human beings and have something to give and provide. That’s the baseline of the work we do.”

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Michael Dersin, a resident at Samaritan House, is a photographer. He provided artwork for the upcoming Sam's Supper benefit on Aug. 25.