Portland, you have a problem.
On a sidewalk in the middle of a crowded food cart pod, another one of Portland's many homeless individuals tunes out the noises of hungry businessmen waiting for their Pad Thai and cars passing by in the nearby street.
Literally, a block away on the exact same afternoon another individual finds solace under a bench next to a busy downtown street. Portland, you have a problem. The problem isn't just an increasing issue of homelessness. The problem is that people flocking to the city don't seem to know about this issue, or care. They see the media's portrayal of Portland; a booming city that is perfect for those who got priced out of California.
Maybe the city is doing everything within their power to help resolve this issue, but the fact of the matter is, if you walk through almost any part of town you will not get that impression. I work in downtown Portland, but commute via the Max Orange Line from South East every day. Every day I see new faces who are part of Portland's growing problem.
This man was sleeping in a sitting position. I saw him sliding downward, dozing further off into sleep as it began to rain. I came back from lunch on this particular day, saw this man fast asleep in steady rain, and was thinking to myself, "what am I doing shooting all of these photos? What is the point?"
I shoot photographs of a range of subjects wherever I go, but I would feel guilty when I captured images of homeless folks living on the streets of Portland. This feeling of guilt led me to realization that I didn't really notice this problem when I was working from a previous office near my house. Even though I grew up across the river in Vancouver, and spent a lot of my formative years skateboarding in Portland, this was never something that I noticed. It is something that a lot of folks still don't notice today.
I realized that I wasn't using any of these photographs of the homeless to do anything beneficial for myself. But, I feel compelled to continue doing so and if that is the case then I should try to make them useful in some way or another. I have a camera on me every day and every day I am going to continue shooting photographs of the homeless community members who are sharing our streets. I would like to raise awareness of this issue and let new Portlanders see the side of the city that Home and Garden Magazine didn't tell them about.
I think I have a goal in mind. I will continue to post images that I capture on my blog, but I would like to compile enough images and information for a book. However, if I am eventually able to raise money to produce a book of this nature I would like to donate proceeds to local agencies who work to help the homeless community in Portland.
I guess this is the start of a new project that I am sure will take a lot of time, film, chemicals, and awkward interactions to create. In the long run, if it does some good, even just a little, it will be worth it. Portland, you have a problem.
Here are some more images that I have captured recently. Share if you feel inclined.
Two men sleeping in the same park on the same day, trying to find shade and get out of the heat.
A true rebel right here. Escaping the rain and clearly disregarding the "No Trespassing" notice directly above him.
One veteran to another... "Where are your military identification cards?"
Again, this problem spans across town. This miniature camp was behind a rundown building in deep South East off Burnside. It is unbelievable what they had going on here.
I have posted these last two images before but they are relevant so I am including them as well. The man in the image on the bottom was sleeping in terribly hot weather. I originally saw him from a restaurant across the street and couldn't tell if he was breathing or not. His arm was in the street and cars pulling up to the side came so close to hitting him time after time. I saw so many people pass right by without batting an eye. I was prepared to call paramedics but eventually, as I passed him I saw him move a bit. This is just something that is becoming increasingly difficult to not address.