Love & Wisdom
A picture is worth more than a thousand words
By Sarah Stackhouse November 16, 2023
A year ago, 23-year-old Anika wouldn’t have recognized the person she is today, emerging from a scattered and difficult past with deep gratitude for the support she’s received.
“My journey has been broken, lots of broken roads, and very narrow,” says Anika, who asked that her last name not be used. “But I’m on a mission to end that, day by day. I’m always trying to make the next right choice and I am who I am now because of the help I got.”
Anika, along with her two children, is among the 100 residents at Hope Place, Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission’s long-term recovery program for women who have escaped homelessness, addiction, and abusive relationships.
Over two days this week, Hope Place celebrated the progress achieved by the women with “Portraits of Hope,” embracing the tradition of holiday cards and family portraits. The women and their children were invited to receive makeovers before posing for a professional holiday portrait. The mission aimed to spotlight stories of hope, with each woman serving as a testament to positive life progress.
“We hear so much about homelessness in the news, but we see stories of hope with every woman we reach out to, and every woman making choices to move forward,” says Julie Jenkins associate director of Women and Children’s Ministries. The event isn’t just a celebration, it’s a milestone for Hope Place residents, providing them with positive memories going forward.
Anika, with loose curls pulled back over the shoulders of her new dress, views her progress as an example of what others can achieve if they’re willing to do the difficult work of healing through recovery. She recognizes the significance of having a photograph to prove it. “A picture is worth a thousand words” she says, “and this picture is going to reflect the whole year I’ve been here. That means a lot to me.”
Darcy Camden, along with a team of Seattle stylists, made big efforts to source new clothing, shoes, and accessories for all the women and children living at Hope Place to wear in their holiday photograph. They curated outfits specifically for each resident, traveling to 20 different stores across the region. The families also received professional hair styling by Gene Juarez stylists and makeup application. The culmination occurs in the sunlit “reveal room,” where three full-length mirrors reflect inspired, hopeful, and proud women.
“It’s one thing to feel it, another to look at yourself in the mirror,” Camden says. “Then, having others reflect back to you, hearing them say, ‘You look great.’ The final element is this professional, beautiful photograph they then get to have. The transformation unfolds throughout the day, leaving people in awe.”
“Portraits of Hope” is a reminder that, with support and compassion, individuals and families can overcome adversity, making a brighter tomorrow. Or, as Anika says, “You don’t take pictures for the moment. You take them for the future.”