New York City. Alan.6.2.17
"Excuse me, do you mind if I sit down to talk for a few?"
"I am working on this photojournalism project. I am trying to de stigmatize homelessness. Most people that walk past the homeless just assume it is their fault, I am trying to show the world that that isn't always the case."
"You have chosen the right person to speak to."
It didn't take me long to understand why that was Alan's response. A little over a year ago Alan, a (now) 29 year old father of 3, woke up to find out that his business partner had removed thirty thousand dollars out of their joint account. Soon after, unable to pay the rent, he lost the apartment that he shared with his girlfriend and the possibility of moving in with family members was strewn with complications.
So here Alan has sat for the past 6 months, his home has become a piece of pavement on 42nd street and his hope is wavering. His girlfriend has just moved back in with her parents (an option that is not given to Alan, as the mother and him do not get along). He had the unfortunate experience of running into his cousin while homeless and he informed me that the shame was unbearable; that encounter alone has him fast tracking his plan to move down South or out West. While he would still be without a living space, he had heard that the resources offered to the homeless in those areas surpass those he has had access to in both New Jersey1 and New York2.
In short Alan was right, I had chosen the right person to speak to. I can only hope that he feels that I am the right person to tell his story.
1 Alan and his girlfriend had terrible experiences with the resources and programs that New Jersey provides to the homeless. For instance, in Newark it is illegal and instead of the police assisting them, they simply wrote them tickets and then arrested them when they were unable to pay. He also noted that the process to receive assistance in Monmouth County was difficult.
2 Alan made sure to mention that his experience in New York City was beginning to look up, as he had been in contact with Breaking Ground, a program that would set him up with housing. However, although his NYC experience had been more advantageous, it still left a lot to be desired.