Hobos & Homelessness: Pictures & Follow-Up
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Shaun Doll, Hobo Sign Meaning “Don't Give Up,” 2014, encaustic painting © 2015 photo by Erik Bell.
An Intersection of Art, History, and Community
On Saturday, April 11, more than 60 people crowded into the Issaquah Depot to celebrate the opening of "Hobos & Homelessness," an exhibit made possible by grants from 4Culture Site Specific and the Issaquah Arts Commission. The exhibit showcases works by encaustics artist Shaun Doll. The images were inspired by hobo graffiti, a coding system that helped hobos navigate life on the road. The exhibit will be on display at the Issaquah Depot through the end of September.

The opening also featured a panel discussion of hobo culture, Issaquah's hobo-related history, and the realities of living without a home in contemporary Issaquah. Panelists included Shaun Doll, IHM Museum Director Erica Maniez, and Issaquah Food & Clothing Bank Director Cori Walters. 

Audience members expressed interest in learning more about both hobos and homelessness. Additional information and links are below. Many thanks to everyone who made it an energizing and thought-provoking morning! 
All photos by Stan Matsui, unless noted otherwise.

Community Homelessness

a few facts and figures 

  • King County has the third largest homeless population in the nation.
  • In January 2015, King County's One Night Count revealed that 3,772 people in King County had no shelter -- representing a 21% increase from the year before.
  • 23% -- nearly one in four -- of those without a home are children.
  • One in three children aging out of foster care will become homeless.
  • There are dozens of different reasons that someone might become homeless -- this is what makes it a difficult problem to solve.

what can I do? 

  • Question your assumptions. We all make assumptions about the world around us. As Cori pointed out, "The big challenge here is that we develop beliefs and feelings based on those assumptions and then those beliefs and feelings turn into either action or inaction." 
  • Give the gift of humanity. Make eye contact and greet someone living without a home.
  • Manage irrational fears.
  • Provide information on community resources (download Nourishing Network info card here), or offer something tangible.
Cori Walters polls the audience on assumptions about hobos of the past, and homeless populations of today. Photo by Stan Matsui.
Artist Shaun Doll (left) talks with an audience member. Photo by Stan Matsui.
People Without Homes
Our Assumptions
  • Male
  • Uneducated
  • Lazy or unproductive members of society
  • Drug addicts
  • Mentally ill
  • Unemployed
  • People who have made poor choices
  • People who choose to live on the street or in the woods
These assumptions feed into a common stereotype. Yes, some of these things may be true for some people. But we cannot rely on stereotyping to inform our actions.
The Realities
  • Women and men
  • All ages, including children & grandparents
  • Diverse races
  • Wide range of experiences
  • Some are employed or underemployed
  • Experienced an accident or medical issue
  • Lost a high paying job
  • Fought for our country
There are dozens of different factors that might contribute to homelessness. That's one of the reasons it's such a difficult problem to tackle.
Many thanks to the City of Issaquah Arts Commission and 4Culture Site Specific for making this exhibit possible!
More photos from the opening are available on our Facebook Page. You can use this link to view them, even if you're not on Facebook. All photos by Stan Matsui unless otherwise indicated.
Riding the Rails & Hobo History
  • Riding the Rails (1997) is based on oral histories with people who rode the rails as teens and young adults during the Depression.One woman reminisces about traveling West to Issaquah with her friend, whose parents lived there. 
  • Catching Out (2003) explores the world of contemporary hobos who live on the road and travel by rail.

Information Online
More About the Art
  • The art on exhibit is available for sale. Contact Shaun Doll directly for pricing information. 
  • A hobo symbol key and artist's statement for the exhibit is available at the Depot in hard copy, or access a digital copy here
"For every mile of beautiful scenery and warm sunshine, there are hundreds of miles of cold, dark nights, no food and no one to care whether I live or die."
--Rambling Rudy Phillips
Copyright © 2015 Issaquah History Museums, All rights reserved.

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