Before I started capturing images for Operation Nightwatch I had little idea of the homeless people in our community beyond the obvious perspective of seeing them living and sleeping rough and experiencing the panhandling for money. My perspective was shaped by my distant impression, distant because I couldn’t describe my interactions deeper than passing by or offering fast food gift cards, something I have done to ensure my gift is being used in a manner I think is most effective. Beyond this I think I was afraid to learn more. How would they react to me and my comfortable lifestyle? I could easily offend with shallow questions or even worse come over as patronizing or pitying them.
After spending time with Operation Nightwatch I have gained a high level of respect for people who are homeless. This is a hard lifestyle. You are not able to relax, you are constantly aware of your environment. Where is the next meal coming from? Who can you trust? This speaks to the tremendous value Operation NIghtwatch brings by providing a safe and hospitable place to gather, to enjoy some food and company. Because of this environment I have been able to sit down and learn more about why these people live this life. I was always curious to understand why, why would someone live such a challenging life?
I’m not asking from the perspective of choice, although some of the younger people I have met have chosen a life on the road, the large majority are here because of circumstance. As far as I can tell circumstance has arisen from a major event in their, commonly the loss of a very close loved one which has thrust them into a downward spiral ending in a life on the street. Perhaps through depression, distractions and inability to hold down a job, absolute grief. You can view this as a factor of the hand we have been dealt.
In future I hope to be able to share some of these stories in more detail. I have been touched by everyone one I have heard and not from a perspective of pity, perhaps a recognition that I am privileged and we are more similar than different. Who knows what the future holds for any of us?
Great portraits, and wonderful to hear about the people and your experience.