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No Place to Call Home - Perspectives on Homelessness

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No Place to Call Home
- Perspectives on Homelessness

By Pam Moulton

A few years ago, I attended a photo exhibit in Chicago, that highlighted homeless individuals who were in various stages of recovery. The stark black and white portraits, accompanied by an audio component allowing these individuals to reflect on “that moment” when they realized that they were without a home, struck a deep chord in my heart. 

Photo of Sue Nelson, Gail Ginder and Pam Moulton taken by a homeless man.As part of a team of photographers, I shared the impact of this event with my colleagues, Gail Ginder and Sue Nelson. The idea of a similar project was born, but did not come to fruition until Colleen Householder, Director for the North Sonoma County Services (NSCS) mentioned that she had an idea for educating the public on some of the realities of being homeless, in Healdsburg.

Our meeting in April 2015, with Colleen propelled us to do some research on homelessness which included our meeting with Erik Castro, a photographer, who was in the process of working on an art piece on homeless teens in Santa Rosa. His photos, stories and compelling portrayal of these young adults fortified our desire to work with NSCS on this project. 

Participation in the “Homeless Count” opened the door to a new awareness of homeless dilemma! Being guided to the various camps by the local homeless residents convinced us that this message of “taking inventory” of what is really going on locally “was born.” Establishing rapport with Rick Cafferata, the NSCS Homeless “liason” facilitated our credibility on our visits. Rick’s guidance, honesty and respect for and from the local homeless population gave us physical entrée into their “homes.” Candidly, we thought that we would be “in” and “out” with the photo sessions. How wrong were we? Our first day was five hours of searching out some of the local residents, whose home had been undone in a clean-up effort by CalTrans. Once we found the three residents of this local camp, we were “taken” by their kindness of spirit and their honest conversations about their plight into being homeless. During this first “session,” the skies opened up, and John, one of the residents offered us his only chair and an umbrella to keep us dry! Here was someone with nothing yet willing to share what little he had of comfort, with us! From that moment, we were determined to extend to him and others in his situation, the same honor and dignity that they extended to us.

Subsequent meetings at the various camps repeatedly reinforced our need to protect these disenfranchised members of our community from being disrespected as human beings! Some educated, some parents, all with a desire to have a place “to call home.” Never were we asked for anything other than hearing their story. All have a story in which they admit to perhaps making some bad choices, all have a desire to be settled in a permanent living situation. In some cases, they marvel at their own living situation, but feel trapped! In most cases, they have nothing other than their personal history, their pride, and dignity. It reminded us that we frequently avert looking into the eyes of these individuals on the corners, with their hands out waiting for some change, some food or just a smile. 

This exhibition is only the beginning for us! Our primary intent has been to educate and heighten each other’s awareness of this grave dilemma. Secondly, our hope is that people are able to assess their attitude and perception about the homeless epidemic that faces all of us, everyday.

No one was BORN homeless, as I was reminded on many occasions and through many conversations from those “With No Place To Call Home.”

Homeless Camp in Healdsburg - Without a Home Photo Project

Artists Statement:

This project has changed each of us in so many ways. We are much more understanding of the experience of people without homes. It’s easy to cluster all of the homeless into one category, assuming they all share the same struggles and problems. This is not the case.

The more we talked to the people we were photographing, the more we saw and felt their humanity. Each person is someone’s daughter, wife, mother, father, husband, or son. Being homeless is very exhausting… 

People without homes deserve to live with some dignity.  We may need to agree that we can’t solve the entire problem of homelessness in our community, but there is certainly so much more we can do to give people a sense of hope that things can get better.