MSUB Photojounalism Project Unveiled
For most of us, 5 p.m. signals the end of another workday. It is a time when we can unwind and take reprieve from the chaos of modern society. Yet, for some Billings residents, 5 p.m. marks a point in their day where it is time to seek shelter on the streets.
“It is a difficult thing to watch,” said MSUB Professor, Brian Kmec. “You have all these people in need and when the clock strikes 5 p.m. they are sent into the streets.” Kmec is referring to the daily ritual that takes place at “The HUB,” a homeless drop-in center for those suffering from pronounced mental health disease.
From 9 a.m. to 5.p.m, Monday through Friday, The HUB serves hundreds of homeless. Highly trained and motivated staff provides patrons crisis intervention and vocational opportunities. “The people at the HUB do an outstanding job with the resources they have,” remarked Kathy Kotecki, Director of the MSUB Office for Community Involvement. “This fall we were looking for an organization to partner our ASC 297 course with and the HUB made perfect sense.”
The ASC 297 Service Learning course places MSUB students in real-world situations. It was this course and the partnership with the HUB that sparked the interest of students, Leah Berry and Stoni Sell. “You can’t help but to get close to some of these individuals at the HUB,” said Leah Berry. “Working with them as part of class was pretty cool, but we wondered what happened to them between the hours of 5 p.m. and 9 a.m when they weren’t at the HUB.”
In an effort to find out what happens to patrons when the doors close, Leah and Stoni decided to place a camera in the hands of as many individuals as possible. With that decision, “The 5 p.m. to 9 a.m. Project” was born.
“We were a little concerned about the project in the beginning,” noted Sell. “The hardest part was getting enough disposable cameras for the project.” Through hard work and perseverance Leah and Stoni were eventually able to raise enough money so every patron who wanted a camera could have one.
Unfortunately, during the fundraising stage, too much time had passed; and the fall semester at MSU Billings was rapidly coming to an end. This also meant the end of the ASC 297 course. Again, Leah and Stoni were not deterred. They asked Professor Kmec if they could continue to work on the project over winter break and finish the course during spring semester. “I couldn’t be prouder of Stoni and Leah,” praised Kmec. “They wanted to see this project to the finish. I think it speaks volumes about their commitment to the homeless of Billings and what they started.”
Stoni, Leah, and the HUB photojournalists recently unveiled “The 5 p.m. to 9 a.m. Project” as part of the Billings Art Walk. The event brought in over 150 viewers from the Billings community.