It's 29 degrees outside. You have a coat and one blanket. And you have to sleep outside. Your stomach is aching because you haven't eaten today, your finger tips are numb from the holes worn in your gloves, and despite how beautiful the winter sunset looks, you are dreading the cold night that follows.
A rusted shopping cart holds everything you call your own and there is no place you claim as home.
That is the life of the 10 people I met today on the street. As I was driving home from the bank, I saw a group of people clustered together masked by their bundled scarves and puffy coats. These are the people I like photographing; the not so perfect men and women who have wrinkles that prove they once wore a smile. In a debate with my conscious of going home to a warm fire or photographing in the cold, I decided that I should grab my camera from and photograph the people.
With Bruno Mars filling the empty air in my car and my camera anxiously awaiting to be focused, I drove back to the bus station and parked. I found my heart pounding and my mind buzzing with thoughts of being kidnapped or robbed as I approached them. When I realized that this label, "homeless" is what makes society believe they have all done something wrong. That every penny you drop into their coffee cup goes to drugs.
My first subjects were Joe and Chris, a son and his mother. Her getting older now, he came to Walla Walla this weekend where they embraced for the first time since 2 years. Although her mouth didn't possess many teeth, her smile was full of joy when looking at her son. They were both open about their lives and how despite all they have been through together, they still love each other.
The majority of people at the bus stop were circled around one shopping cart and what they had called their Christmas tree. Decorated with a jar of mayonnaise, a snow flake from a church, and knitted scarves and hats so if anyone was cold that night they could take them.
Malcolm was the guy that exuberated happiness and begged for his picture to be taken, with his crocheted purple beanie and denim jacket, he made for a great subject.
As I was photographing and talking with everyone, there was a woman who was giving out scarves, blankets, and free coffee. Despite having nothing, the homeless made sure I was warm enough. They gave me a scarf and gloves and offered the food they had on them. So what is it that makes these people who have virtually nothing, the most giving people I have met? The self reflection made me understand that they treasure what they have, not what they want. They know the difference between a house and a home. That it's not about where we crawl into the same sheets every night or the repeated outlet we plug our phone into; home is where we decide it is. For some it might be a lawn chair outside a church, the sidewalk on 9th street, your frequented coffee shop in London, or the 4 story house in the country. Where ever it may be, it only proves to be understood that you are the one that's got to die when it's time to die, so make your home where the hell you want it to be.