Children at homeless shelter seek ‘Pictures of Hope’

At age 11, Mya hopes to one day become a cheerleader.

But it’s a dream she has for her mother that had adults tearing up Friday at the Salvation Army Center of Hope, where the girl has lived since June 1.

“My hope is for my mom to believe in herself,” Mya said. “If she believes in herself, we could get a house.”

Having a house is apparently the most common dream of children at the shelter, based on a survey conducted Friday as part of the nationally acclaimed program Pictures of Hope.

Fifteen children (ages 6 to 12) were selected to get a free photography lesson, then given their own camera for a challenging assignment: photograph their dreams.

Award-winning photographer Linda Solomon of Detroit created Pictures of Hope to inspire children to consider life’s possibilities beyond homelessness. The program, sponsored by Chevrolet, will visit 14 cities this year. A set of cards will be created from the photos to raise money for the shelters in each of the cities.

“Whether you’re talking Charlotte, El Paso or New York, the dreams of (homeless) children are for things the rest of us take for granted,” Solomon said. “The saddest dream I recall was from a child in Memphis, who said: ‘I hope for people not to think I’m a nobody.’ He was 10. It was heart-wrenching.”

Here in Charlotte, the dreamers included Morgan, age 7, who hopes to one day “bake a cake with my mom and dad.” Others wrote about trips to places such as Cleveland, Texas and Carowinds.

Shemar Bryant, 12, wants a job at Foot Locker to help his family.

Shelley Henderson of the Salvation Army said the most touching among the hopes she saw was that of a 10-year-old boy who wants a dog. “That just goes to show that a kid is still a kid, even in a shelter. Yes, they dream of jobs and homes, but he’s still a boy and he wants a dog.”

Solomon’s plan was to take the children to a park to photograph their dreams. When heavy rain made that impossible, the children focused on things around the shelter.

For Shalice, 9, that meant trying to photograph something that represented her dream of a home. She lives in the shelter with her mom and her 4-year-old sister.

“I want a house close to uptown, where we can sit at the window and watch all the cars go by,” she said.

Her search for the right image led her on a 45-minute trek, during which she photographed flowers, beds and even a microwave.

Finally, she found just the right image in a break room: an old kitchen table and four chairs, adorned with salt and pepper shakers. Shalice imagined sitting at it with her mom, sharing a meal.

“Home,” she said, as the camera clicked away. “That’s it.”