Elfrida Schragen stands in front of some of the portraits she painted of frequent visitors to Our Place. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)

Elfrida Schragen stands in front of some of the portraits she painted of frequent visitors to Our Place. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)

VIDEO: Victoria artist paints portraits of the homeless

Elfrida Schragen says spending time with patrons of Our Place has changed her view on homelessness

The cafeteria at Our Place can be a bustling place–especially at lunch time– but at all times of the day there are dozens of beaming faces staring out from colourful portraits hanging on the back wall.

The paintings portray long-time patrons of what was the Open Door and is now Our Place, including people who still visit everyday and some who have come and gone.

For artist Elfrida Schragen, the call to paint the homeless people of downtown Victoria came as an overwhelming urge.

“I don’t know why I did it at first, I think because I thought they were interesting,” Schragen said. “As I got to know them and I saw each person was so different, all the assumptions I had about homeless people just went out the window.”

READ MORE: Victoria, Our Place push for storage space to serve homeless population

Between 2007 and 2014, Schragen has done over 30 portraits. She said she would simply approach people she thought were interesting, talk to them for awhile and then asked if she could paint them. She said almost everyone was very happy to have it done.

“For them they were all thrilled that somebody was paying attention to them enough to want to paint their portrait, so it made them feel good too,” Schragen said.

READ MORE: Our Place in Victoria serves Thanksgiving lunch to those in need

Schragen incorporated elements of each person’s story into their paintings; one woman believed she was speaking with angels, so she is bathed in light with angels surrounding her. Another man who suffered from hearing voices is depicted with many strange faces around him. One portrait shows a woman with three children blurred out in the background and a large crucifix nearby; it represents someone whose children were taken away as she struggled with a spiritual dependency on illicit drugs.

READ MORE: Our Place offers ‘next steps’ to employment

Schragen recalled one portrait of a man who simply liked trucks and cars. When the man passed away, the portrait was used in his obituary as it was the only likeness of him that anyone had.

Over the years the portraits were sold for fundraisers for Our Place, and most of them were then turn donated back to the Society after they were sold. In total, Schragen said the paintings have raised over $40,000.

“Everybody has their right to a place in history,” Schragen said. “It may not be what we traditionally give people a place in history about, but everyone is unique and I hope that these portraits bring out the uniqueness of the individuals.”

nicole.crescenzi@vicnews.com


Send a Tweet: @NicoleCrescenzi

Like us on Facebook  

Our Place

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A senior official with Victoria International Airport says the airport is still researching COVID-19 testing regimes but predicts testing and screening will remain part of the aviation industry even after vaccines have rolled out. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria International Airport researching COVID-19 testing options

Senior official predicts ‘screening and testing will be around long after the vaccination rollout’

Sidney Pier was one of two sites in Sidney as the Netflix series Maid shot in Sidney in late 2020. The show starring Margaret Qualley was one of 38 productions shooting in Greater Victoria. (Bob Orchard/Submitted)
Head of Greater Victoria film commission warns of lost economic opportunity

Kathleen Gilbert said without full funding, region will not be able to attract productions

Construction in Oak Bay is nearly all focused on rebuilding new single-family homes and without secondary suites. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Oak Bay nears regulation of secondary suites

Preliminary report hints there’s no preferred option

Sidney Jon Blair said he would have died if a van and car had collided at the intersection of corner of Resthaven Drive and Brethour Avenue in early December. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Sidney senior urges motorists to slow down on Resthaven Drive

Jon Blair said community must become more pedestrian-friendly

Bob Joseph, author of 21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act, will be available for a Q&A through the Vancouver Island Regional Library Jan. 28. (Courtesy of Vancouver Island Regional Library)
Q&A on the Indian Act with Bob Joseph open to Greater Victoria residents

Bob Joseph is the author of 21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act

A scene from “Canada and the Gulf War: In their own words,” a video by The Memory Project, a program of Historica Canada, is shown in this undated illustration. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Historica Canada
New video marks Canada’s contributions to first Gulf War on 30th anniversary

Veterans Affairs Canada says around 4,500 Canadian military personnel served during the war

Williams Lake physician Dr. Ivan Scrooby and medical graduate student Vionarica Gusti hold up the COSMIC Bubble Helmet. Both are part of the non-profit organization COSMIC Medical which has come together to develop devices for treating patients with COVID-19. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Group of B.C. doctors, engineers developing ‘bubble helmet’ for COVID-19 patients

The helmet could support several patients at once, says the group

A 17-year-old snowmobiler used his backcountry survival sense in preparation to spend the night on the mountain near 100 Mile House Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021 after getting lost. (South Cariboo Search and Rescue Facebook photo)
Teen praised for backcountry survival skills after getting lost in B.C.’s Cariboo mountains

“This young man did everything right after things went wrong.”

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa on December 10, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
No place for ‘far right’ in Conservative Party, Erin O’Toole says

O’Toole condemned the Capitol attack as ‘horrifying’ and sought to distance himself and the Tories from Trumpism

A passer by walks in High Park, in Toronto, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. This workweek will kick off with what’s fabled to be the most depressing day of the year, during one of the darkest eras in recent history. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
‘Blue Monday’ getting you down? Exercise may be the cure, say experts

Many jurisdictions are tightening restrictions to curb soaring COVID-19 case counts

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
COVID-19: Provinces work on revised plans as Pfizer-BioNTech shipments to slow down

Anita Anand said she understands and shares Canadians’ concerns about the drug company’s decision

Tourists take photographs outside the British Columbia Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday August 26, 2011. A coalition of British Columbia tourism industry groups is urging the provincial government to not pursue plans to ban domestic travel to fight the spread of COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. travel ban will harm struggling tourism sector, says industry coalition

B.C. government would have to show evidence a travel ban is necessary

(Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
‘Targeted’ shooting in Coquitlam leaves woman in hospital

The woman suffered non-life threatening injuries in what police believe to be a targeted shooting Saturday morning

Everett Bumstead (centre) and his crew share a picture from a tree planting location in Sayward on Vancouver Island from when they were filming for ‘One Million Trees’ last year. Photo courtesy, Everett Bumstead.
The tree-planting life on Vancouver Island featured in new documentary

Everett Bumstead brings forth the technicalities, psychology and politics of the tree planting industry in his movie

Most Read