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The Eye of the Beholder is the Window to the Soul

New Hope Housing Seeks to Brighten its Space

For those budding artists seeking a canvas, the Eleanor U. Kennedy Shelter has just the thing — the wall of a former water treatment plant.

New Hope Housing, Inc., which operates the 50 person shelter is seeking an artist or group of artists to contribute designs for a mural to be painted inside the shelter. Located on Fort Belvoir property, but outside the gates, the facility first opened in 1986.

"In the 1980's churches throughout the Mount Vernon area were offering space on a temporary basis and the shelters were moving from church to church," Pamela L. Michell, New Hope Housing Executive Director, explained.

"About that time a new law was passed that gave shelters first choice on excess government property that became available. This was perfect because it avoided all the neighborhood issues that come with shelter location," she said.

SITUATED AT 9155 Richmond Highway, the Kennedy Shelter provides housing for 38 men and 12 women. "We want the artistic design to be submitted after the artist meets the residents," Laura Martin, Volunteer Coordinator and Community Outreach Director for New Hope emphasized.

"The mural is just part of the larger vision of what Kennedy can be. Rather than residents feeling exiled, they would be part of the community," Martin said. "One of the things that sets Kennedy apart from other shelters is that we take risks with people. We have people who would not be accepted at other shelters."

Kennedy residents cover the spectrum from those recently released from prison, after being incarcerated for a variety of offenses, to those with mental problems and cognitive disorders. "The average stay of our residents is very hard to determine because everyone has an individual service plan," Martin noted. "But it's usually about one month."

BECAUSE THE SHELTER is in an old water treatment facility, there are few windows and thus, very little natural light comes inside, said Michell. "The living room, where residents read and watch television, is especially uninspiring," she pointed out.

A lone poster decorates the walls in that location. It is in this area that New Hope wants to have a mural created. "We believe that physical environment plays an important role in residents' self-image. Brighter, cheerier art in the shelter will make the residents feel more positive about themselves and the world around them," Michell explained.

New Hope Housing was founded in 1977. They currently operate four shelters and 20 units of transitional housing. Among them are Mondloch House I and II on Lockheed Boulevard, in the Mount Vernon area, and Maxis Place in Falls Church.

Questions, ideas, or mural designs should be directed to Martin at 703-799-2293, Ext.13, by e-mail at lmartin@newhopehousing.org, or faxed to 703-799-6503. Designs can also be dropped off at New Hope Housing's administrative office at 8407-E Richmond Highway.

"We hope someone will give of their talent to this end. It will make a difference," Michell concluded.