As a kid I saw news stories and a TV movie about Washington homeless advocate Mitch Snyder. I first met homeless people as a teenager in Florida where I observed them picking for food in the alleys behind beachside bars and motels. I attended Georgia State University, which at the time (1984-1986) was a commuter school in downtown Atlanta. There were many homeless people on the margins of campus but that experience inadequately prepared me for the many homeless on and around the University of Pennsylvania campus. As a student and ethnographer in training I always knew that my world was safely separate from the men, women, and children I saw on the streets.
The type of work I do rarely puts me back in close proximity to the homeless beyond the ordinary encounters in the streets of Washington and suburban Maryland. Recently I began working on a multimedia project for a client that involves interviewing supportive housing providers and assembling images for a brief video report. One of the folks I met during this project was a former homeless person who recounted life on Washington’s streets and why it was preferable to live beneath a Georgetown bridge rather than risk the threats of assault in homeless shelters or in doorways downtown. This morning I visited some of Washington’s homeless encampments in and around Georgetown and shot some stills.