Arts & Entertainment

Local Photographer and Loyola Org Support Homeless Through Cold

When Chicago’s temperature drops, the homeless population is often left out in the cold. But a local resident and Loyola student organization are proving everyone can do their part to help. 

A Rogers Park photographer, Michelle MacPherson, recently donated 20 percent of her print profits to provide shelter for Chicagoans. MacPherson gave the funds to Helper 2 U, an organization that provides essential resources, and that had partnered with the Chicago Union of the Homeless, an organization committed to ending homelessness.

Both organizations were contacted, but neither were available for comment.

At the end of January, Chicago had the largest snowfall in five years with temperatures dropping into the single digits, The Phoenix reported. Freezing temperatures especially impact the homeless population — which in Chicago is about 77,000 people — according to the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless

MacPherson, whose Instagram is @bestcoastmichelle, sold 47 prints from Feb. 5-12, making $500 from sales and donating $145 to the cause — about one-third of the sales being to Rogers Park residents. 

“I want to do something that can impact an immediate need in our community,” the 29-year-old said. 

A Loyola student group had a similar calling.

The Illinois Public Interest Research Group’s (PIRG) Hunger and Homelessness Campaign partnered with the Greater Chicago Food Depository to provide meals for the homeless in Chicago. Loyola’s chapter of the campaign participated in the online fundraiser from Feb. 24-26 where people donated food items or amounts of money. 

Within those three days, it raised about $1,500, donating about 4,500 meals. Sophomore Lucy Highland, the coordinator for the Hunger and Homelessness Campaign at Loyola, said it was twice as much as they expected. 

“Living in Chicago especially, there’s no way to really not see the homelessness crisis, and especially during this winter which has been super cruel and really harsh,” the economics major said. 

MacPherson’s contributions came about on Feb. 5 when the Chicago Union of the Homeless posted on Facebook about their partnership with Helper 2 U, asking for the public’s support. When MacPherson’s wife saw it, MacPherson said she decided to step up. 

She said she has been a professional photographer for about six years, the last three of which she has spent photographing Chicago, specifically the North Side. However, this is the first time MacPherson has sold more than one print at a time. 

Growing up in Wheaton, Illinois, MacPherson said she has always been interested in photography, learning Adobe Photoshop when she was nine years old and taking a photography class in high school. 

MacPherson attended Wheaton College to study communications with an emphasis in media studies and film. She moved to Los Angeles for her last semester of college and stayed for a few years, working for the Representation Project, a non-profit documentary company, and then for Buzzfeed. 

In 2018, MacPherson relocated to Chicago and now works as a Salesforce Consultant for Slalom, a business and technology consulting firm.

When it comes to Loyola’s PIRG, Highland said they have been dealing with the pandemic the best they can. 

“We’ve sort of had to adapt to making fundraisers online and events online,” she said. “People get kind of Zoom exhaustion and sometimes don’t really want to hop on another Zoom call to volunteer for something.”

Highland said she was looking for an internship when she came across PIRG, and she said she was drawn to the work they were doing. 

“I’ve always been really passionate about social justice issues and been really empathetic towards people who are less fortunate than myself and often forced into situations that are out of their own control,” Highland said. 

Loyola’s chapter of PIRG was founded in August, and today, it has about 25 employees — 23 interns and 2 Illinois PIRG employees. Other major campaigns are the 100% Renewable Energy for Illinois Campaign, Make Textbooks Affordable Campaign and New Voters Project Campaign. 

Because the fundraiser was so successful, Highland said they’ll use the momentum to plan other fundraising events this semester. 

“We’d love to do something that specifically addresses communities of color and other under-privileged communities,” Highland said. “We’re definitely looking into it.”

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