Tent city afternoon


What an extremely long day, and the sun hasn’t set yet. I am sitting on an amtrak train about to head home. I would have stayed on through the week but an important class needs my attention tomorrow, and so does a paying client. I will be heading back this weekend to really dig in and work without interruption.

I must admit being homeless is not particularly fun, exciting or easy in this camp. The only way I can describe it is to compare it to camping after all the good food runs out, you’re tired and can’t go home yet. The local soup kitchen provides one meal a day and the rest of the time you’re fending for yourself.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the the tent city is broken up into many different camps. I soon found out that I was stating in the “family oriented camp.” this may sound strange or weak but it ended serving me well. My camp consisted of the very group of people I was looking for, people who had lost jobs and homes–were trying to recollect and get on their feet again. This where I spent my time. The other main camp was the ghetto. This is primarily where the drugs, prostitution, and madness combined. I was very interested in what stories these people had to offer, though I felt very uncomfortable spending any time there. I had been yelled at and threatened just for walking up to someone’s tent with someone who was delivering ice.

Early afternoon a truck pulled up. I was told the guy I side ran a nonprofit that brought supplies out to the people; tents, etc. Everything but food. Everyone in all camps were very familiar with this guy. Everyone flocked to his truck to get things. The sad part of this was that there were genuine people who needed supplies, and then there were people who sidne really need them but took it anyways to sell for drug money. A really sad state of affairs. The man handing out the goods was wired with a helmet cam and mic. He looked ridiculous. The situation got more disturbing when he announced to the crowd that be had become like them, homeless, had just lost everything, and was moving into the camp. After everything was handed
out he pulled his truck up to a site and started to unload all camping equipment, getting residents to help him. I really can’t be one to judge but when I asked him about his non profit and he told about his business, TV publicity, and how he was bringing a friend in to film a documentary, I became a little skeptical. A number of people I had been talking to had mixed emotions about this person. Some only cared about the supplies he brought. Others were curious of the political strings his supplies had. Others just didn’t trust him. I also heard
that he had approached loaves n fishes to help them, and they denied his services. Something political I’m sure.

I’m tired. I feel real worn out and I was only there for two days. Call me weak. But being homeless takes a lot out of you. I heard scrapping for cans around town is even harder. Next time.

My tent is still there. There are people, my camp neighbors, who told me they’d watch it for me until I return in a few days. I told them I would donate it to the camp when my work is done.

One final thing, if anyone is interested in going out there to photograph. Take an ice breaker, something you can offer, something they need, and may ask you for. Cigarettes, tobacco, and instant coffee are things that they need and will help you get a conversation going. Whatever you do, please remember they are people like anyone else. Cross the tracks and walk around, talk to them. They want to be engaged. Pack your camera in a backpack at first. Don’t walk in with it slung on your shoulder. They are very weary of anyone looking like “reporters”. Once you break the ice ask if they mind that you photograph them. And above all, if they ask what it’s for be honest. If they ask for a print or you offer one, please deliver.

Sent from my iPhone

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