Art exhibit shows plight of homeless through pictures

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By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver

PHOENIX. -- It's First Friday in downtown Phoenix. One exhibit shares the struggles of homelessness, a look at this plight through pictures.

The "I Have a Name" exhibit is featured at the MonOrchid in downtown Phoenix. The project was born out of a need to create and inspire change.

Artist Jon Linton says the homeless problem in the Valley needs to be recognized, and this is his way of doing that.

"It's really about changing somebody's heart, one heart at a time," Linton said.

Linton recognizes the humanity in the darkest of moments. He's an artist on a crusade for change.

At the gallery opening of his show Friday, you'll mostly just find faces and names. They're a tribute to what Linton calls forgotten souls on the streets.

"It's so dehumanizing that they are hungry for human interaction," he said.

But when they do speak, their words most often are gut-wrenching.

"They took his finger ... and then the kids doused him with gasoline and set him on fire. You can see these bandages that are here on his abdomen. Those wounds never heal," Linton said about a homeless man named Albert.

Although Linton's images and the stories behind them are hard for most people to comprehend, he says they are as real as it gets. He's hopeful the project inspires dialogue and outreach among Valley residents that pass by every day.

Ironically, the exhibit is dedicated to a perfect stranger and inspired after a vague message popped up on his project's Facebook page.

"It was just one sentence and the sentence said, 'My daughter has a name and now she's gone,' " Linton said.

Summer Francis Smith, 18, was murdered on the streets in Washington state and her family didn't have the money to give her the proper burial. It was a heartbreaking scenario Linton says he couldn't ignore.

"In 14 days, we raised $3,200 so that they could properly have a loving goodbye for this little girl in a dignified way," he said.

Linton has also launched a crowdfunding campaign to have a mural painted on this wall of the MonOrchid gallery. He says it'll be a monument to remember those in need and those who've lost their lives on the street.