I didn’t know what to expect as I walked to meet Panda. It was a cold, wet day in New York City. There’s no good day to be homeless, but the winter months are the worst. A few people commented that I needed to reach out to him. Panda emailed me saying he would be at Penn Station in 20 minutes. That didn’t allow time to look at his YouTube channel, but I assumed it was someone experiencing homelessness with a camera and a mic.
I assumed wrong. Panda is a professional photographer living homeless with a cart full of production gear.
As I turned the corner seeing his cart full of video and photography gear, I may have smiled a little because anyone who can carry that much gear and survive the streets of New York City had to be an amazing person on many levels. The first thing I asked Panda was how he survives without getting everything stolen. The answer is he’s creative, Panda tries to stay in safer areas when he sleeps outside, and he has had some of his gear taken a few times. One time after trying to go into a shelter. Panda shares that story in this interview.
Because Panda is what homeless services call high functioning, he doesn’t qualify for most services. While everyone should have adequate housing, there are not enough resources to go around for all the homeless people that need help. The sector then prioritizes, so people like Panda are left to fend for themselves. Panda is smart. He has the skills and the gear. He just needs a little help to restabilize his life.
I left meeting Panda encouraged. Although we talked about the horrors of homelessness, Panda shared positive insight on both life and serving the streets of New York City. A few times Panda said to end homelessness, all we have to do is care.
Your voice can help end homelessness. If we do not fix the affordable housing crisis, homelessness will continue to get worse. Tweet, email, call, or Facebook your federal and state legislators to tell them ending homelessness and creating more affordable housing is a priority to you.
Here is a link to Panda’s website: https://drum.io/thepandaphotographer