I went downtown Monday morning to try to find a street I’d passed before, where people were sleeping on a sidewalk lined with shopping carts, sleeping bags and suitcases. I didn’t find it, but didn’t have to, to find similar conditions. I actually found something familiar to me after what I’d filmed in Chicago, as the city had posted eviction notices where people loitered and lived.
I was immediately apprehensive to approach some of these people when I found this street, partly because I didn’t want to offend anyone and didn’t now how, and partly because they were belligerent for no apparent reason. There were a few police officers around on bicycles, and a few people that seemed to be gathering their things and moving. Then I saw the cleanup notice.
You can’t blame owners for not wanting people to camp outside of their business, and you can’t blame the police for enforcing their removal, but there is still no solution to where they should go…
I didn’t want to start asking people questions under these circumstances, not having any clue what I was getting into, and realized a lot of these people did not want me around.
It did shed new light on what I am getting into here. I am somewhat embarrassed for not speaking more with these people, and instead relenting to the fear I felt and getting out of the situation.
Not that I didn’t experience the same dissent as I continued to walk around. I was taking pictures of someone in a lawn chair digging through his bag when a railway passed, so I covered my camera to avoid any dust from harming my equipment. Someone approached me on their bicycle and asked me if I was taking pictures of them. I replied that I wasn’t, but he asked me to show him, and asked why I covered up my camera when I saw him coming over. He’d been through this before, and explained that people would come by and snicker and snap photos, so I showed him what pictures I’d taken, and told him what I was doing.
He chose to be live on the streets, and didn’t want to be on camera. He wasn’t asking for help either, he just didn’t want to be criticized or ridiculed. Speaking with him gave me new perspective on the many different stories people experience that bring them to not having a place to live. Our discussion, added to the few other people I’ve spoken with during this project are why I’m embarrassed I didn’t speak with the people when I first arrived downtown. Their stories are important, too! I was just too fearful to ask.
I’m hoping this experience helps he shock effect the smell of drugs and alcohol, the yelling and inaudible shouts produce. Their situation is so new to me, but having been exposed to it calls me to act. So I continued to speak with few more people, mainly to offer words of encouragement and gain more knowledge about their experiences and this epidemic. Actually, the more people I speak with, the more they encourage me to see this project through to the end.
So thank you to the people that are allowing me to continue this project. The Kickstarter has just under two weeks until our deadline, and we are nearly 60% funded! Please stay tuned and share this project so everyone can say they were a part of Tent City!