Student uses her skills to help Atlantic City homeless

A South Jersey college student is drawing on her talents as a photojournalist, activist and event planner to help raise awareness and funds to aid the plight of the homeless.
Magdalena Kernan, a 21-year-old senior political science major at The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, Pomona, embarked on a class project in 2012 to engage with homeless people in Atlantic City. In the process, she shot dozens of portraits of the individuals. Those pictures became part of a exhibit, “Finding Home” at the Noyes Museum of Art in Oceanville.
Kernan’s recent efforts have resulted in a fundraising event to aid the city’s homeless.
The “Faces of the Homeless” event will be an exhibit of her most recent photographs of the people on Atlantic City’s streets. At the event, a silent auction will be held, with live music by the band ARGO 5-8 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 19 at the Melting Pot restaurant, 2112 Atlantic Ave. in Atlantic City. The Melting Pot will be providing hors d’oeuvres and drink specials and donating a percentage of the profits. All proceeds will aid the Atlantic City Rescue Mission and Covenant House.
“I was struck by the fact that as a society we often pretend that homeless people are not there,” said Kernan, who grew up in St. Augustine Parish, Ocean City. (St. Augustine merged with other parishes in 2011 to form St. Damien.)
“Maybe they think that if they turn a blind eye to the people, then they won’t feel the extent of the problem.”
According to Kernan, what began as a school project quickly grew into a passion to help people off the streets and bring to light the immense issue of homelessness in Atlantic City.
She partnered with the Atlantic City Rescue Mission and Covenant House to help launch her project.
“One of the goals of my photography is to point out the displacement and disparities among the poor,” Kernan said. “Too often, individuals who are well-off enough to help, simply do not. The homeless represent a major under-served segment of the population and the gap widens between the homeless and the high-functioning levels of society.”
“The goal of the ‘Faces of the Homeless’ project is as simple as its name: to place a face and a story to as many homeless people as possible,” she said. “I want people to understand that only a few difficult circumstances separate the homeless from the ‘mainstream’ of society.”
Kernan said that one boy she met had just graduated high school and had nowhere to go. “This goes to show how homelessness is not age discriminate and can be consequential of an “accident of birth-it could happen to just about anyone and the rest of us who are more fortunate have a responsibility to give back.”
Kernan spent many hours following Alex Siniari, an outreach worker for the rescue mission, out on the streets and under the Atlantic City Boardwalk on sweeps with the police force. With her subject’s consent, she documents the encounters and their everyday struggle.
“Some of the most common general areas of need involve food, health and dental care, drug and alcohol treatment, and of course, shelter,” Kernan said, “and all of these things cost money; a lot of money. So when I thought about the best way to help, organizing a fundraiser seemed like a great place to start.

If you go
“Faces of the Homeless,” including a silent auction and live music by the band ARGO, will be 5-8 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 19 at the Melting Pot restaurant, 2112 Atlantic Ave. in Atlantic City.
There will be no fee. Donations are accepted for the selected charities and all proceeds from the silent auction will go to one of the two designated Atlantic City agencies, the Atlantic City Rescue Mission and Covenant House.

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