New York City. Nameless. 8.1.17
The other day the question was raised about how many individuals have turned down speaking to us and it was with a sense of pride that I was able to respond that not one person has yet to decline our interaction.
Then I remembered the woman you see in the above photograph and how close my answer came to being "one".
*For the sake of the flow of writing I will now refer to the woman as "Jane Doe" (I know,how original)
Initially when we sat next to Jane she was hesitant to speak with us, as she had a bad experience previously when speaking to someone about her situation. However, within seconds, it was as if a switch turned on and she began telling us her story. She even allowed us to take her photo.
Jane had "everything" in life, she exclaimed. Unfortunately for her, that "everything" included a penchant for heroin. A penchant that she has since abandoned, but one that has resulted in sleeping on the streets of New York City for the past 3 years.
For us, this was the first time we had spoken to an individual whose story fit the stigma we are trying so terribly to eradicate. This was also the first time that we were told that the family of the homeless person was willing to - actually, desperately want to - have them come home. Jane explained that if she were to call her mother at that very moment, that she would come to pick her up immediately. Obviously aware that she peaked our curiosity (I mean...why not go home, then?), Jane continued on to explain that she "put herself in this situation, and she wanted to get herself out of it." So while her vice may fit the stereotype that the masses attribute to all homeless, her outlook most certainly does not.
While our interaction with Jane was full of many firsts, it was also chock-full of norms. Jane, too, had been waiting on breaking ground for a housing assignment; and effort that was mismanaged by two case workers. Additionally, she was quick to call the other homeless individuals "family"; a camaraderie that was further solidified when she noted that if it were between her and a person that was suffering from a mental illness, she would give them her bed (although, she herself, was suffering from a rather serious medical issue).
In short...while her name will continue to remain a mystery, her courage will not.