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Archive for Homelessness

Jan
04

Alley Life

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Teddy (Right) and Hercules take shelter in a popular alley in Chicago's Loop. 

Jul
10

Saying goodbye…

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Saying goodbye...

I don't have much time left here in Chicago, so before my last few street photography workshops, I went around and took some photos with several of the folks that I've come to know over these past eight years.

William can't hear, but he can read lips like a book.
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Cartel and I love to talk politics and history while hanging in Talkers Park.

cartel

I'll sure miss Leslie. She has lived on the streets of Chicago for more than 20 years. She reminds me of my grandmother.

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Teddy, Hercules, and me. Talkers' Park, Chicago
Teddy, Hercules, and me. Talkers' Park, Chicago

Ran into Stutters in the alley. I've been photographing Stutters on-and-off for five years now.

stut

Ran into Hercules on Adams St.

hur

Found Teddy, my best buddy!

ted

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I'll sure miss these guys...

Teddy, Hercules, and Me - Talkers' Park, Chicago

Teddy, Hercules, and Me - Talkers' Park, Chicago

Hard to believe that I've been photographing these guys for almost five years. Somewhere along the way, they became much more than "photographic subjects;" they became my friends.

Jun
12

Teddy Smith, Alive and Well!

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It has been some time since I've seen ol' Teddy Smith. We were working on getting his cataracts taken care of about a year ago, but Teddy has been in and out of jail so much during this time that we lost contact with each other. Teddy has been out of jail and back on the streets for about a week now. During his last stretch in county jail, he was able to have one of his eyes fixed, so at least he won't be getting run over crossing the street.
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Aug
21

Alley Boys: Choosing Homelessness

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Victor Davis is a man whom I've known for several years now. Victor is one of several men who has decided to take up residency in one of the alleys in Chicago's Loop area. Like many homeless people, Victor has access to a place indoors where he could stay, but has decided to live a more unrestricted lifestyle by living outside. In this way, Victor is free to do as he pleases, without all the responsibilities that come along with indoor living.

Victor Davis, a long-term homeless man

CHICAGO, IL. Aug. 21, 2015 - Victor Davis, a long-term homeless man, gathers usable items from a dumpster near his outdoor camp. Victor has a place to stay indoors, but like many homeless people, Victor has made the decision to live outside.

choosing homelessness

CHICAGO, IL. Aug. 21, 2015 - Victor Davis, a long-term Chicago homeless man, prepares to head back to his outdoor camp with the usable items he has salvaged from a dumpster in his alley.

Finding food in Chicago's Loop is hardly ever a problem for homeless people. You don't really have to eat out of dumpsters as many church groups and individual people give food to the homeless. In fact, it's not uncommon to see panhandler signs that read "Please, NO MORE PIZZA!"

"People throw away so much good shit, you'd have to be retarded to go hungry out here," Victor explains as he prepares his dumpster-dive lunch in a Chicago alley.

"People throw away so much good shit, you'd have to be retarded to go hungry out here," Victor explains as he prepares his dumpster-dive lunch in a Chicago alley.

Victor has unbelievable stories, but, as Teddy says, "everyone is entitled to their own imagination." Things generally start out believable, but soon diverge into questionable territory. As Victor straightens out his belongings, he tells me the following story:

"A long time ago, when I was younger, I played bass in a heavy-metal band. One time we played at this heroin dealer's funeral. They had all kinds of food, and I ate like a king. When I went back on stage to play, I was high as hell - all fucked up. I was wondering what the hell was wrong with me and why I was so fucked up. Turns out, they had ground up the heroin dealer's bones, and put them in the food."

CHICAGO, IL. Aug. 21, 2015 - Victor Davis, a long-term Chicago homeless man, tells fantastic stories while he straightens his camp area.

CHICAGO, IL. Aug. 21, 2015 - Victor Davis, a long-term Chicago homeless man, tells fantastic stories while he straightens up his camp area.

Along with drugs and alcohol, mental health issues are in no short supply on the streets. That being said, even people with mental health issues are free to make their own decisions.

 

 

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What a pleasure it was running into Tyner at Talkers' Park yesterday. At 72 years old, Tyner's creative mind is as sharp as a tack. Tyner makes all kinds of things out of items people throw away. The last time Tyner purchased ANY type of food, was in 1989, when he bought a small jar of olive oil. Tyner eats exclusively from dumpsters.
tyner-

Tyner has file cabinets filled with schematic drawings for all sorts of contraptions, many of them designed for children - all made from garbage. Tyner also claims to have 11 semitrailers filled with items needed to make said inventions. From what I have gathered, hoarding has been an issue Tyner and his son have struggled with.
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A beautiful mind...
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Tyner loves classical music. His knowledge of classical composers is quite extensive, and he loves to spend hours in the library listening to musical scores. It's wonderful to be around creative people, and I look forward to spending time with Tyner again in the future.

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Alley Boys: Teddy, Diamond, Victor, Radical, Stutters, and Bruce

Alley Boys: Teddy, Diamond, Victor, Radical, Stutters, and Bruce

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After running into roadblocks the previous day, Teddy and I headed back to St. Peter's first thing the following morning. We arrived right at 9:00 am. Several other people were already waiting in line, some to pick up their mail, others to see if they could receive a voucher in order to get a state ID. As long as someone has an active ID on record, this office can write a voucher, which a person can then take to the Thompson Center and get their physical state ID.

Once 9:30 rolled around, people waiting in line started to complain about how the services at this office have deteriorated. According to several of the people that were standing in line, who have come to this office on a regular basis, this office is now often unexpectedly closed, and the staff is almost always late.

"Since Abbie Daigle left this mother fucker, ain't nothin' run right," one older gentleman yelled out in a tone of frustration. "You got that right," said another man. "I wouldn't be where I'm at today if it weren't for Abbie," said a third man who was also waiting in the hall.

This goes to show that even within a broken system, there are good people who do make a difference. Apparently, Abbie Daigle ran this office up until about two years ago, when she reportedly moved on to another position elsewhere. Teddy and I had to wait in the hall until 10:17 am before anyone showed up, one hour and seventeen minutes late.

After all of that, there wasn't anything this office could do, as Teddy must start from the beginning of the process, because he hasn't had an ID in such a long time. We'll need to acquire his birth certificate, and his Social Security card in order to acquire his ID.

Teddy was extremely frustrated, and was obsessively picking the skin off of his hand the entire time we were in the office. Teddy is truly institutionalized, and shows signs of high anxiety whenever in an office. I noticed the same reaction when we were at the hospital last year. Who knows what trauma this man has suffered over the years while being housed in our various state institutions.

When we got back outside, Teddy expressed his frustrations:

"Hell yeah I'm a Republican. The Democrats run all this public aid shit. Democrats have so much red tape wrapped around every goddamn thing, you can't get nothin' done. These pencil pushing mother fuckers sit up in theses offices all goddamn day, collecting nice fat paychecks. They don't give a goddamn about any homeless peoples. For them, the more homeless peoples, the better. -Teddy Smith

Teddy waiting outside the Franciscan Outreach Case Management office located in the basement of St. Peter's Church, Chicago.

Teddy waiting outside the Franciscan Outreach Case Management office located in the basement of St. Peter's Church, Chicago.

We headed over to Grant Park where Teddy ate his lunch. On this particular day, Teddy had found some meat, rice, and potatoes in a dumpster.

Teddy picks out a piece of  meet from a bag of food he found in a dumpster.

Teddy picks out a piece of meat from a bag of food he found in a dumpster.

Teddy eating  a potato that he found in the garbage.

Teddy eating a potato that he found in the garbage.

We talked for a while longer before I had to head back home to the warmth and comfort of my apartment. We made plans to move forward once his school records came to my PO box. We'll need these to get Teddy's birth certificate.

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