A Place to Call Home

About The Project


Ernel Martinez, Damon Reaves, Shira Walinsky

Completion Date

25 June 2011


3828 Melon Street (Between 38th & 39th Street)

While housing is globally recognized as a human right, for many Philadelphia residents it remains a dream. More than 1,000 Philadelphia children and youth will sleep in a shelter tonight (Philadelphia Children and Youth Experiencing Homelessness: Practical Strategies for Action Report, August 2010). A Place to Call Home sheds a light on the unique housing challenges facing urban children and youth while embarking on a significant effort to equip them with the skills and resources necessary to ensure they remain healthy and housed.

Experience three unique art projects, inspired by the voices of the youth whose photography and interviews generated the professional work. These projects include mixed-media animation created with artist Damon Reaves, a mural and installation of youth stories cast into a paper dining room by muralist Ernel Martinez, a series of site-specific small murals designed by Shira Walinsky (produced in collaboration with her University of Pennsylvania class called Big Picture: Mural Art), and the painting of over 30 facades of homes on the 3800 block of Melon Street, led by muralist Ernel Martinez, all designed to bring the project to the art house where the installation is sited, 3828 Melon Street (Between 38th & 39th Street).

Working with University of Pennsylvania Epidemiologist and Professor Carolyn Cannuscio using the process of photo elicitation, 48 Mural Corps student participants shared their stories through photographs and interviews. From the experience, Dr. Cannuscio has produced an academic paper about the impact of housing on health that can be used to communicate the issue to policymakers.

To further shine a light on this ever-increasing problem, WHYY Public Radio conducted a series of segments that focus on the issue, giving voice to youth, service providers and concerned citizens and community members. These public forums and periods of advocacy yield art-based storytelling that conveys narratives of the youth to visitors and community members alike.


Pathway to the Art House

  • A series of site-specific small murals and a temporary wheat pasted “pathway” designed to bring the project to the art house installation. Shira Walinsky, muralist

Community Mural – 3800 Block of Melon Street

  • Using geometric color-blocking, the block will become a “community mural” where over 30 facades are painted to create a unifying identity. Ernel Martinez, muralist

Art House – 3828 Melon Street

  • An installation that includes two mixed-media animations, a sound mural, an installation of youth stories cast into a paper dining room, and a room with housing information and resources. Damon Reaves and Shira Walinsky, mixed-media animation; Elisabeth Perez-Luna, WHYY sound mural; Ernel Martinez, paper dining room installation


The Power of Story, Audio Mural
Produced by Elisabeth Perez-Luna
Associate Producer, Mike Villers

To download mp3, click here.

For extended Newsworks coverage of A Place to Call Home, click here.

  • Mural Project Highlights Homelessness, Newsworks Tonight, WHYY
  • Crack House becomes 'A Place to Call Home', Newsworks, WHYY
  • Shining a Light on "home insecure" youth, Newsworks, WHYY



A Place to Call Home: Secure Housing as a Keystone of Young People’s Health - Carolyn Cannuscio's White Paper


WHYY, University of Pennsylvania, People's Emergency Center, Philadelphia VIP, OPPORTUNITIES-PA, West Philadelphia Real Estate