Let me preface these photos with an explanation of why I was taking them. It was an idea I had for a photo mosaic. The idea was to keep a disposable camera with me at all times and whenever possible and with the person’s permission take a photograph of the homeless people I met. I would talk with the person, exchange first names, get to know them a bit and give them a dollar, not spare change.
I collected quite a few photos and some good stories and whenever I saw them would make a point of saying hello and checking to see how they were doing. However, I soon realized it might take hundreds if not thousands of photos to do the photo mosaic and at the rate I was going I would never get the project done. So, it went on the back burner until now.
I am going to share these photos and stories with you in order to accomplish two things. First I want you to know that these men and women and children may be homeless but they are still people just like you and me. They were at one time children, had parents, brothers and sisters, family, friends and they probably lived a life much like your own. They went to school, got jobs, had girlfriends or boyfriends, fell in love, got married and lived a life of ups and downs, good times and bad times. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, they have ended up homeless and unless you have lived that life, “walked in their shoes”, I doubt if you can fully understand how difficult it is to simply survive, much less change your circumstances.
Submit your Photo
The second thing I hope to accomplish is to finish the photo mosaic but I will need your help. I decided long ago that in addition to pictures of the homeless I wanted to collect photos of “angels”, good people who care about their fellow human. If you feel so inclined please submit a picture of yourself to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please be aware that by submitting your picture you are giving Stephen T Millhouse and/or The Going The Distance Foundation permission to use photo to create the My One Man March photo Mosaic. I would ask that it be a picture from the shoulders up, a “Headshot”. Once I have collected enough photos I will create a picture of the first homeless gentleman – when you see the following photos and read the stories, you’ll understand why.
I was leaving the Hospitality Kitchen, in downtown, “skidrow” Los Angeles, after volunteering when I saw the following gentleman in a bus stop. Given the obvious irony of the Hollywood poster on the side of the bus stop advertising the Angelina Jolie and Edward Burn movie, “Life or Something Like it” and the homeless gentle man hanging out at the bus stop I stopped to take a picture and asked if he would stand next to the poster so I could take a picture. He looked at me like he didn’t understand and with a face that was a bit wary. He offered no name and did not speak. He just put his head back down. I took my pictures from a distance off, trying to capture the irony of the shot. I laid two dollars on the bench next to him and then went to leave. As I was walking around the back of my car (That’s “Mimi” in the foreground) he looked up and seemed to have a bit more life. I asked if I could take his picture and he nodded yes. I took the picture, said thanks, offered him God’s blessing and drove off. I got the pictures back and have kept them all this time and whenever I look at his face I want to cry. I want to cry because to look at him and see his life I am humiliated and embarrassed that as mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, as Americans and as fellow humans, we allow anybody to live on the streets, eating garbage, living out of a bus stop and all alone in a city of millions. But, I also want to cry because of the awesome beauty of his face. There is an unfathomable sense of peace and unconditional love in his smile. My heart breaks yet I’m filled with hope when I look at him.
|Rex, a “30 something former Cornhusker”
He described himself as being an on-again, off-again alcoholic. However, he said he was currently “10 days dry”. He complained about not having any socks and I offered him whatever I could, including the proverbial and literal shirt of my back. He settled for a pair of socks out of a bag of stuff I was taking to a local thrift shop. Rex was very pleasant, engaging and quick to laugh, despite his circumstances.
|Brunston, a 57+ year old man was originally from Arkansas.
Brunston has been living on the streets of L.A. a long time and has a neighborhood pet dog who we decided to call “Rocky”. Brunston said that he lives in his car during bad weather. We talked for quite a while, especially about “Victory” gardens and about the weather differences between Arkansas and L.A. I had no idea what a “Victory” garden was and found my conversation with Brunston very human, real and educational.
|Robert, a 45 year old man.
Robert is missing his right leg below the knee. He was very disheveled and on crutches. We talked quite awhile and when we talked about having his picture taken I told him he could smile or make a face or whatever he wanted. He said “No, I want it to look good cause it was for God.” Talking with Robert was another humbling, beautiful, sad and very moving experience.
|Bobby, a 45 year old man originally from Corpus Christy, TX.
Bobby indicated that he has been on the streets of L.A. area quite awhile. He said he is Bipolar and he knew his medications. He was familiar with local day treatment programs. Bobby was a very pleasant soul and we had a great conversation.
|Mitch, a 50+ year old man outside my neighborhood laundry mat in L.A.
He cleans car windows for money and we have talked on numerous occasions. I invited him to the Catholic Soup Kitchen whenever he is downtown. He stated he has been on the streets for years but he was well kempt and seemed to possess a peaceful and calming soul.
When I asked if I could take his picture he said, “Well, I don’t know. Last time I had my picture taken, I broke the camera.” He stood up and started laughing. It was a good line and we had a great laugh.
|Niki, 54 years old
Niki told me she has been on the streets for almost four years and has been struggling with her SSI. She states that she believes in God and she felt to me like she had a great soul.