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Before You Judge Any Homeless Person On The Street, Read This First


It’s easy for us to walk past the homeless, and to disregard the guys lying on the streets or ignore that woman standing at an intersection with a handwritten sign asking for help.

But it’s also harder to look away whenever you see their eyes.

You wonder: Why did he/she end up here? What does he/she need to get back on his/her feet?

While the questions do not always have easy answers, people have crazy reasons why they end up in such conditions.

In his project to examine the homelessness problem on the West Coast, ‘AP’ photographer, Jae Hong, toured Seattle, Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area to shoot intimate images of those with no permanent homes.

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Hong came across several people, in the process.

Moi Williams, 59, for instance, was met resting on his elbow on concrete steps leading to a Los Angeles’ park.

William had a job, but “just lost it,” he revealed. He tried finding another one but never came along. Now he’s been trying to beat alcohol and drugs, in vain.

Williams wishes to get some money and a place to live. He doesn’t stay in a house but has not signed up for any public help. For now, he’s just comfortable where he’s.


“I’m not bothering anybody,” Williams said. “And I’m not being bothered, neither.”

James Harris, 54 is another victim. Harris likes to start with “God bless you” before he begs for money. It makes him feel quite better to offer something—even if it’s just offering simple blessings—in exchange for a handout.

“It isn’t easy panhandling and taking free things from people, you know,” he remarks.

Harris has had AIDS for 30-years. When medication stopped working, Harris got depressed and was evicted from his former residence. Today, he feels like vulnerable and struggling just to survive.

“I’ve been chased, beaten, and robbed,” he said. “People steal your clothes, tents, and tarps. I’ve lost everything I owned.”

Out of $900 a month he receives from Social Security, Harris spends little extra cash to smoke at night.

“But I put my basic needs first, then drugs last,” he reveals.

Bernadette Ortiz, 39 is also in a temporary shelter at San Jose-based church. In early 2017, Ortiz was living in a tent with a boyfriend when she discovered she was pregnant.

The situation enabled her land space to stay at a church—though her baby, hasn’t been allowed to stay with her, there. The kid stays with Ortiz’s family member at night and then returned to her during the day.

After being kicked out by her husband, Ortiz remained shelter-less for about 5-years. The frustration pushed her to drug abuse.

She left behind 4-children. Her estranged husband does not let her see them because she’s homeless.

Hong met many more people with situations like that for Ortiz, Harris, and Williams. He learned many this in the project. But above all, Hong learned that: don’t judge those homeless people in the street—you never know why they ended up there.


Written by How Africa

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