Like many of us, Bob Ballard didn’t know what to do whenever he saw a homeless person on the street. “I felt conflicted,” says Ballard. “Should I talk to them or avoid them? Should I give them money, or not?” The CPA-musician decided to explore his feelings about the homeless through music. He hung out for three days with a group of homeless people and wrote a song and made a music video about his experience.
“I was so inspired by who these people were, how they let us into their lives, and their incredible artistic talent,” says Ballard. “I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be wonderful if people saw them for who they are?’”
Ballard’s desire to change public attitude towards homeless people, as well as his participation in Landmark’s Power and Contribution course, ultimately sparked the idea for the Hearts of Fire Project, a nonprofit organization that aims to empower homeless people through artistic self-expression. Professional musicians and artists volunteer through Hearts of Fire to help run art workshops in homeless shelters across the country. “The homeless can participate by painting or drawing or recording original music, and we hold exhibits that benefit the shelters,” says Ballard.
Hearts of Fire also has a program that provides used motor homes to the homeless. One of the first recipients is Maria Pollack, a mother of a 12-year-old son who suffers from a debilitating condition. Pollack is employed but doesn’t earn enough to rent an apartment. Ballard says she’s an example of how we, all of us, have value despite our circumstances or economic status.”
“The homeless people we’ve worked don’t have anything left to distract them — no houses or cars or any of the things that we have convinced ourselves are so important,” says Ballard. “They simply have an understanding of community and affinity and love and connection – they have hearts of fire.”