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Local photographer crafts project to put a face to the homeless

Posted: February 19, 2014 5:49 p.m.
Updated: February 19, 2014 5:49 p.m.

Gary Choppe', creator of the "Souls of Hope" exhibit that goes up in the Valencia Library starting Saturday. Signal photo by Dan Watson

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A new exhibit aimed at putting a face on the homeless population in the Santa Clarita Valley will go on display beginning Saturday at the Valencia Library.

The exhibit, dubbed the “Souls of Hope” project, was put together by photographer and local resident Gary Choppe’.

For the project, Choppe’ said he interviewed dozens of clients at the Santa Clarita Valley’s homeless shelter so they could share their stories. Choppe’ also took portraits that will be displayed as part of the exhibit.

He wanted to put the project together in part due to his personal experience with the issue of homelessness, the photographer said.

“I had a member of my family that ended up homeless,” he said. “It was very earth-shattering.”

That personal experience was part of the reason Choppe’ was interested in working on the project with Bridge to Home, the organization that oversees operation of the local homeless shelter on Drayton Street in Saugus.

“I think maybe we’re all one paycheck away from ending up in the shelter,” he said.

Choppe’s work was not limited to just those at the shelter. He also talked to and documented slices of life with the homeless population that lives in the wash.

While some at the shelter or in the wash didn’t want to speak to him, Choppe’ said, many of the people he approached were willing to talk about their experiences.

“I had more people that actually said they would want to participate because they felt it was important to get their story out,” he said.

Choppe’, who runs Choppe’ Advertising Group and is a member of the Santa Clarita Arts Commission, said he hopes the project will help people realize that, even in a more affluent area like Santa Clarita, the issue of homelessness is a real one.

“So many times we want to just turn the other cheek and turn our backs and try not to recognize that we do have these issues,” the Canyon Country resident said.

He said he also hopes the project makes people aware of the services provided by the local shelter and of the needs of the shelter.

“I think everyone working together for a year-round shelter will be the best solution,” Choppe’ said. “And, at the same time, those people that are at the shelter, we want to get those people back on their feet and back out into the community.”

The “Souls of Hope” exhibition will be on display at the Valencia Library from Saturday through March 5.

The exhibit is free and open to the public, but in-kind donations will be accepted.

For a list of the shelter’s current needs, visit
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