Boulder group highlights county’s ‘invisible,’ struggling population

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BOULDER, Colo. -- Hanging much like what could be seen in an art gallery, portraits of Boulder County residents are on display beside sometimes shocking, but often defining, quotes about their lives.

These people represent what the One Thousand Design group calls "Project Invisible." Each picture highlights a portion of the county's unseen struggle: Loss, poverty, homelessness or gender identity to name but a few are all on display.

"We wanted to put stories in front of people that would spark really hard conversations and catalyze change in a way that wasn't polarizing," creative director Kassia Binkowski said. "In a way that really highlighted the humanity across all of the populations."

Hanging by a seemingly middle aged man in glasses is this quote: "Obiouvsly I pass very well. Nobody would ever guess I'm a woman. But it's very strange for me to be walking down the street at night and there's a woman in front of me and she'll cross over to the other side."

Another quotes a man in his early 20s who says sometimes he sleeps outside when the temperature is in negative degrees.

Another features a hard working architect who lost it all when the housing bubble collapsed in 2008.

"I was with [an architecture firm] here in Boulder when the recession hit and I was sort of the last one in, first one to get laid off," said Lloyd Lewis.

Lewis is featured in the gallery, but not to any sort of glee. He wishes he didn't go through years of poverty, working for minimum wage at IBM until his job was outsourced. Lewis said he came as close as a person can get to being homeless.

As he cycled further and further into debt, he said the only thing he felt he could control was hiding the situation from his son.

"I was the one that was supposed to make his life better than my life was," Lewis said. "You're supposed to keep that going through generation and I couldn't. I couldn't do anything."

After being laid off the second time, Lewis took a job for a delivery service. On his second day, he delivered a package to the architecture firm he originally worked for. They hired him back and he has been working steady for a full year.

The quote beside Lewis's name embodies his past: "There is no hierarchy to struggle. It's not just the visual you see. Not just the guy with the sign. We were at the playground with you and we were going home trying to figure out what to eat. You just don't know who it's happening to."

Each face at the gallery tells a different story. Some of them are similar, but no two are the same. Organizers just hope showing these diverse situation can spark difficult conversations and eventual change.