1/28/2011

Homeless people living on the streets in Knoxville

What if everything you owned fit into a backpack? What if you couldn't get food or have a warm place to eat? My daughter and I were witness to a group of homeless people quietly living on the streets in Knoxville. They had backpacks and each other but seemingly little else. It was cold and a little rainy.

On the streets in Knoxville
I felt sad for the group and wondered where they would go to get off the streets. Knoxville has more homeless shelters and solutions than other cities. But when you see people huddled like this you wonder if it's enough or if anything can ever be enough.

Then something else caught my eye. In the middle of this group of homeless people on the streets in Knoxville was a dog. A homeless dog with homeless people. It may be poetic but it seems so unfair to both the humans and their canine friend!

Homeless dog
Later I saw a stray dog alone, on the same streets. It gave me pause. Which is better off?. Is it the stray dog who is alone to fully fend for himself or is it the homeless dog who found comfort among people who might be no better off than himself? I have to say that the dog with friends looked more nourished than the solitary stray. In a way, aren't they all strays? Both the humans and the canines were sadly lost and almost forgotten in the cold and rain.

As I pondered this question we walked back through the area where the group was. They were still huddled together for warmth and for companionship. Someone had brought them dinner. You could tell that they were glad but a weariness was setting in.

Soon, it would be nightfall and time to find a place to sleep. Where do you find a bed if you are part of the homeless people living on the streets in Knoxville? Street people they're actually called, officially.

But behind the titles and the stereotypes are people. Human beings who are without the basic necessities that most of us take for granted. They exist in every city, in rural areas and downtown. They live in my town, your town and on the streets in Knoxville.

Homeless dinner on the streets
 I've worked with people who are homeless and people who are on the streets. There was something about this group that I couldn't quite put my finger on. For me, it's unusual to see a group of homeless people living on the streets in Knoxville like this. The effect was disquieting.

What are their names? Where do they come from? Do they have family who cares? Or, I wonder, is this a surrogate family; perhaps a bonding of sorts among people with so very little to share.

We went back to to this group of homeless people living on the streets in Knoxville. We hoped to see if there was anything we could do. These answers to my questions remain unanswered. As quietly as they had come  the group was gone.

2 comments:

  1. Gayle I admired the honesty of your story Could I ask you as a homeless man do you give these people the respect of asking to capture there lives in picture before you post them, If not think of the times I have been offended by people taking my picture while driving by as if I was a stray or abandoned animal please I pray you asked?

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  2. Joseph,

    Your compliment is much appreciated. Every person I photograph is a person. Not a stray, not a throwaway but a person.

    I do not remember if I did or did not ask with this particular photo. Generally, I do try to ask every time and especially if someone is identifiable in the photo.

    Here's a good article on photography in public places.
    http://www.usatoday.com/tech/columnist/kimkomando/2008-04-17-public-photography_N.htm

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