Plight of the homeless: Chelsea exhibit chronicles 150 years of The Bowery Mission’s aid

A new Chelsea exhibition chronicles the 1 1/2-century history of the Bowery Mission’s work with the Big Apple’s homeless population.

Founded in 1870, the Bowery Mission was created to aid immigrants living in destitution within the Lower East Side community and has kept its red doors open through two pandemics, two world wars, the 9/11 terror attack, and more, all the while looking to provide the unhoused with food, clothing, and services.

It is this longstanding history that both the Bowery Mission and Production Glue look to celebrate with a free exhibition at the High Line Nine Galleries located at 507 West 27th St. The modest art expo looks back over the service provider’s 150 years delivering aid to New York’s most at risk population.

Photo by Dean Moses

“It’s important to celebrate the stories of transformation that have inspired The Bowery Mission for more than 150 years. They remind us that transformation is possible for anyone experiencing homelessness and hunger,” Brian Ourien, director of brand marketing and communications at the Bowery Mission, told amNewYork Metro.

“The timeline is a reminder that while homelessness has existed in New York City for more than 150 years, The Bowery Mission has been a steady presence in the city, keeping its doors open through countless crises such as the Great Depression, the World Wars, the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and the COVID-19 pandemic. And we will continue to be here to diligently serve our neighbors in need,” Ourien added.

Photo by Dean Moses

The presentation hosts a large wall to visitors showcasing photographs and illustrations of the impact the Bowery Mission has had over the many decades it has been in operation. The show also includes large metallic silhouettes of individuals who have either been through a Bowery Mission program or have had a big positive effect on the care they provided.

These silhouettes also carry QR codes which viewers can scan to learn more about each person.

“Each silhouette in this exhibit tells the story of someone who, after facing seemingly insurmountable obstacles, was transformed through the unconditional love of God and the persistent generosity of others. As homelessness in New York City continues to soar, these stories remind us of the ever-present possibility of redemption and our collective role in serving our neighbors in need,” Ourien said.

Photo by Dean Moses

In addition to the provided services, the exhibit highlights the difficult facts that the unhoused have faced a similar plight over the last two centuries with very little being done to aid them save for organizations such as the Bowery Mission. The exhibit will run through December. 

“I’d like folks to recognize the humanity of each of our neighbors. We see their stories throughout our history, stories that have inspired generations of individuals to step into the possibility of life transformation here at The Bowery Mission,” Ourien said.