Emily and her children

Emily and her husband live in a hotel near St Louis with their 4 kids and another one on the way.  When we walked in Emily  was giving her son a “time out” by sending him to the bathroom. There is no other room.  There is no privacy. My heart broke while visiting with Emily and her children. You can feel the nonstop stress this young mother must experience.

Emily’s husband lost his job. They then bounced around family until their car broke down and they ended up at this hotel. That was almost a year ago.

Living in weekly rate hotels often becomes a strap. It’s $1,000 a month to live there, which is often just most people’s paycheck. Emily’s husband is now back working and they have been lucky enough to save up some money, yet with an eviction on their record – finding a house or apartment to rent can be challenging.

 

Special thanks to Paul Kruse.

Moon

Moon sleeps in an abandoned building someplace near New Orleans. Earlier today, he had to take his pup to the veterinarian, and that took every cent he had. When I met him, he told me he had raised $2 in the last hour.

Moon had a job, but hurt his back. He was not able to go on disability because they said it was his fault.  Without income it was only a matter of time before he became homeless.

Earlier today I had a chat with a local outreach team that focuses on abandoned buildings.  When I asked the person if he knew what I did he responded “ya we have housed a few people in your videos”.  My hope is Moon will be one of them soon!

Russ

Russ lost his job in Winnipeg working with Mental Health Commission of Canada. For 4 years Russ helped people on the streets get the help they need. At the time of this interview he was sleeping rough in Ottawa, where he relocated to look for work.

 

Very special thanks to Ottawa Salvation Army and Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness.

Patrick

When I met Patrick he was living in a van with his wife and dog. They went from a 4-bedroom house to mobile homelessness, and at the time of this interview they were living in a Safe Parking program near San Diego.

 

Special thanks to Homelessness News San Diego

Kathryn

The majority of homeless people I know, if you saw them walking down the street, you’d never even suspect that they are experiencing homelessness. Kathryn is one of them.  When we were first introduced I actually thought she may be a staff person.

I met Kathryn on Skid Row. She came to the Los Angeles Mission from Las Vegas for their women’s recovery program. Kathryn says on Skid Row you see a lot of misfortune people and it’s very sad.

Kathryn ended up on the streets after losing a job. She tried working while being homeless, and that never seemed to work out. Kathryn relocated to LA because of the resources, and she says she sees food everywhere!

Special thanks to the LA Mission

Michael

After returning from tours of Iraq and Afghanistan, Michael found himself back in America with a drug and alcohol addiction, which quickly led to job loss and then homelessness.

Michael is homeless in Syracuse. I met him “flying a sign” on a subzero winter day just to get a few dollars to survive. Weather report at the time of this interview was around minus 15 °F. I had to take my gloves off just for a moment to setup the camera, and the tips of my fingers burned like they were on fire for the next half hour. Michael said he had been standing there for 2 hours. Luckily, Catholic Charities is providing shelter for him at night, but the day before on the same corner, I gave socks and gloves to a man who is sleeping outside during this weather.

When I asked Michael what he wanted the world to know about being a homeless veteran he responded: ” for a person to be homeless it’s a shame, for a veteran to be homeless it’s a tragedy.”

Please watch this powerful video on veterans homelessness.

 

 

Special thanks to Syracuse Rescue Mission

Norman

Norman says when he first hit the streets of New York City he didn’t know anything about homelessness. He didn’t know where to go. He didn’t know where to sleep. He didn’t know where his next meal would come from.

The night before this interview, Norman slept in a subway station. Even now, after a few years being on the streets, Norman shares about how unsafe it is just trying to get a nights rest.

Norman tried the shelter system, but because of conflict as a result of the person next to him using drugs, he was asked to leave and was told he had to wait for an extended period to come back. Norman says the NYC shelter system basically just warehouses people and offers little or no help to better their lives.

When I asked Norman for his 3 wishes he responded, “Get out of homelessness. Get out of homelessness. Get out of homelessness.”

 

Very special thanks to Hanes.

Lars

I am pissed! I am so mad right now! I just hate ignorance! More on that in a moment.

I met Lars in San Diego a few months ago. Lars was laid off from his job of 5 years, and when unemployment extensions ran out, he had no choice but to live in his car.

Lars was lucky that he found Dreams for Change, a nonprofit that helps support people living in their vehicles. I wrote about the program here: People Living in Vehicles Need a Safe Place to Park, Not Fines or Jail

While traveling this last month I saw that Vista, California was trying to shut down one of Dreams for Change parking lot programs at a local church. I did happen to visit that church, but all the stories, except for the interview with Teresa Smith, CEO of Dreams for Change, were recorded at another church parking lot outside of Vista.

Why I am so mad is I just learned that they did have to shut down the program at the church in Vista. This article says neighbors started yelling obscenities at the homeless and volunteers and made angry phone calls to the church, which made the situation unsafe.

I just wrote and than backspaced a bunch of obscenities myself.  Ignorance along with lack of any compassion or common sense makes me insanely mad!

Neighbors of Cornerstone Church in Vista – YOU SUCK! Homelessness is getting worse, and the best way to fight homelessness is to support programs like Dreams for Change that are helping people get out of homelessness.

 

 

 

Special thanks to Homelessness News San Diego

Johnny

Johnny is homeless in San Diego. His former boss retired and Johnny lost his job. Then the recession hit and he could not find employment.

Johnny has been assaulted and robbed several times, yet he says at the same time he has met a lot of great people.

Johnny was interviewed via Google Glass. Google picked Invisible People for their Explorer program, so we are still trying to figure out the best use to bring you the story of homelessness. It does give a different “point of view” feel. We would love to hear your feedback on how we can make better use of Google Glass.

 

Special thanks to Homelessness News San Diego

David

David is homeless in San Diego. He relocated for employment, but when that didn’t work out he ended up on the streets.

David does not drink or do drugs. Unless you knew him and his story, you probably would not even know he was living on the streets.

David says that there are resources, but most are focused on drug addition or mental illness, so he is having a hard time finding the help that he needs.

David is the first person I interviewed wearing Google Glass. Google picked Invisible People for their Explorer program, so we are still trying to figure out the best use to bring you the story of homelessness. It does give a different “point of view” feel. We would love to hear your feedback on how we can make better use of Google Glass.

 

Special thanks to Homelessness News San Diego

T.J.

T.J. has been homeless in San Francisco for the last three years. After getting sick he was not able to keep his job, and with no family or friends ended up on the streets.

Because T.J. is disabled, he gets $900 a month, but that is not enough for housing and food. He tried the shelter system, but he says the insane standing while waiting in line makes it not worth it.

T.J. is just of many older American’s who are not able to work, yet benefits do not support housing!

Laura

A year ago Laura had a job she loved, a car, and a house for her and her two kids. Today, she is lucky that Seattle’s YWCA is helping her move out of a tent community into a hotel room.

I met Laura while she was moving what possessions she had left from Nickelsville, a tent community located just outside of Seattle’s downtown area, to a hotel room provided by the YWCA’s family homelessness program . Her and her kids stayed at Nickelsville for a week after “timing out” from a 30 day shelter. Laura was lucky to have a place to go. Nickelsville is the only tent community that allows children, but living in a tent in not the best situation for young kids.  Nickelsville and several social services agencies work together so that families and single parents with young kids get the help they need.

If you are not aware, and I feel a blog post on this topic coming soon, many shelters are transitional with 30 – 90 day programs. Some may go for a year or two, which actually makes a lot more sense. Who can get their life back in 90 days or less?!! NO ONE! When a resident goes past the allotted time, in Larua’s case 30 days, the family “timed out” and has to be removed from the shelter. Ideally, that would be to their own apartment or a longer transitional program, but that takes a small miracle to happen. Many places just give a reference to a new shelter and do not even provide transportation, or they will “dump” clients to other shelter programs, such as an emergency shelter that takes anyone. (Catherine was dumped to a winter shelter program, where she was kicked out into the streets and eventually died)

I have a lot of respect for Laura. While talking to her, she told me stories of her childhood that were beyond horrible. What she had to do as a child is unthinkable, but she keeps fighting hard to make a better life for her two boys, even against all odds.

If you’re interested, here is the link to the Facebook page her and her sister created for their band

Bobby

I met Bobby just before dark in a cold and rainy Chicago. Two nights before police threw away all of his belongings including his blankets.

Bobby has been homeless in Chicago for two months. He moved to Chicago from Wisconsin for work, and when the job disappeared, Bobby had no place to go but the streets.

 

Edward and Anita

“Three months ago I never thought I’d be dumpster diving,” Edward told me right before I sat down. Both him and his wife Anita live homeless in a park in Glendale, California.

Edward and Anita used to make a living telephone soliciting, but when work slowed down, they could not afford to pay for the hotel room they were living in. Luckily, at the time, Glendale was operating a winter shelter program. When that program closed, Edward and Anita, and about 80 others, ended up homeless.

Edward and Anita talk about a small community of homeless friends that have banned together to help each other. Anita adds “I get $473 a month from social security and no body can live on $473.”

The boomer generation is now reaching their senior years. This last economic crash destroyed most people’s hope for retirement. The real truth is, we are going to see a lot more older homeless people like Edward and Anita, who even with public assistance, cannot afford adequate housing.

David

David worked as a chimney sweep for 23 years in Minneapolis, but when the economy crashed, work slowed and he lost his job. Both David and his wife ended up homeless going from shelter to shelter. Right now they are couch surfing, staying in a over-crowded apartment with friends.

I cannot imagine living homeless in Minnesota. David tells the story of how they lived under a freeway bridge for a time, and were lucky to not be hurt when the bridge collapsed.

Taylor and Mike

Mike and his 6 year-old daughter Taylor live in a homeless shelter in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Mike was hurt at work and without income they lost everything.

I work helping homeless families in Los Angeles and it’s extremely hard to find services for single dads. Most shelters are setup for single females or two-parent families. When I was introduced to Mike and Taylor I was so very glad to see they were being helped.

Taylor is very mature for being six years-old. Before I took the camera out she was talking nonstop, even giving us all instructions on the interview. Once the camera started she became quiet except when I asked her for her three wishes.

Taylor only had one wish and that wish is still messing me up.

 

 

Very special thanks to Tulsa Salvation Army

Troy

I was in a bad mood when I arrived in San Francisco so I needed to adjust my attitude. I set out to take the first homeless person I saw out to dinner. That person happened to be Troy. Works every time!

Work slowed on the oil rigs in Montana so Troy came to San Francisco to see if he could change jobs. When I met him Troy had been homeless for a few weeks. He is sleeping on the streets working odd-jobs to survive.

Popcorn

I met Popcorn on the streets of San Francisco. He came to San Francisco from Michigan, and he found himself unemployed after losing his job as a hotel worker and security guard.

Popcorn has an interesting optimism and upbeat tone as he talks, even though life on the streets is hard. When I asked him how life was, he responded, “Not too bad. It could be better.”

He’s been on the streets for five years now. And to escape the cold night, he sleeps over a grate with boxes around him. Panhandling gives him money for food, and he lives day-to-day beyond that

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