New York City. Mike. 5.11.17
Mike had asked that I not take his photo, as he would prefer not to have any documented images of this part of his life. However, that does not make him or his story any less deserving of acknowledgement. In fact, after speaking with him for close to 30 minutes, I was convinced he was the best man to help me begin this project.
You see...Mike's story isn't one of drugs, drinking, or debauchery; a story that many onlookers wrongfully assume to be the narrative of the majority of people they see living on the street. No. Mike was a 43 year old father of 2 kids, both of whom he had put through college. He had "done everything right" in life, he said, with such great conviction that I couldn't help but admire and trust. Unfortunately for him, misfortune doesn't discriminate.
A little over 7 months ago, in the form of a debilitating illness, misfortune had set its sights on Mike and won. Due to his illness, Mike was fired from his job and left to apply for disability benefits; a feat that would soon prove to be a difficult one.
And just like that, after living a life he was proud of, one that many of can relate to, Mike was homeless and living on the streets of New York City.
I made it a point to ask him about his other options. Couldn't he stay at shelters or perhaps move in with one of his children? Too many of his personal items would be stolen at the shelter, drop in centers - while abundant in the city, offered very little comfort, and he refused to be a burden on his children; "I should be taking care of them, not the other way around" he repeated. Additionally, a homeless individual must be spotted on the street hundreds of times, in order to receive assistance. Mike was lucky enough to have finally reached that number a few weeks prior.
Albeit down on his luck, Mike refused to play the pity card. He was steadfast, resilient, and self aware. He believed whole heartedly that his situation was temporary and felt a deep empathy for those whose homelessness was more permanent. He was honest, hopeful, and unwavering in his mental strength.
Sure, I may have walked away from our conversation without a photograph; but I was far from defeated, as I now - more than ever - believed in the importance of my project.
All my thank to you, Mike. You've got this. I believe in you!