HOME: SEATTLE TENT CAMP
Robert Irwin is a self-described jack-of-all-trades, who had a steady job as a maintenance engineer for 25 years at a Seattle hospital until it closed decades ago.
He became homeless earlier this year when staying with other people didn’t work out. About three months ago, he landed at Camp Second Chance, which he credits with turning his life around.
HOME: A TEMPORARY SHELTER AT A SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA, CHURCH
Bernadette Ortiz was living in a tent encampment with a boyfriend earlier this year when she learned she was pregnant.
That helped her land a place to stay at a church, though her baby, Serenity, hasn’t been able to stay with her there. The infant stays with a family member at night and is returned to Ortiz during the day.
HOME: A SEATTLE STREET NEAR A WATERFRONT PARK
Barry Warren sits in a lawn chair next to a shopping cart teeming with his possessions. He’s been homeless his entire adult life – if you don’t count the three years he said he spent in prison.
HOME: SKID ROW, LOS ANGELES
Jorge Ortega sleeps on a street in one of the most wretched homeless havens in America.
The sidewalk reeks of urine and drug addicts sprawl nearby, one in the apparent throes of a high with her arms spread wide and head turned toward the heavens.
HOME: A SEATTLE HOMELESS ENCAMPMENT
They call her “mom.” Tammy Stephen, whose children have grown up, cooks and looks after the denizens of Camp Second Chance as if they were her own.
“I’m not going to let my family go hungry,” she said. “We’re doing our best to get through life. I don’t let people mess with my family.”
She has known the cycle of dependence herself and been pulled down in it by partners, she said.
HOME: STREETS OF LOS ANGELES
Across from the elegant Millennium Biltmore hotel, Moi Williams reclined on his side, resting on an elbow on concrete steps leading to a park in the heart of downtown Los Angeles.
Rather than stand out in contrast to the business people hustling by or commuters heading home, he fits in as one of the many homeless people who idle their days in Pershing Square.
HOME: A TENT IN HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA
James Harris likes to open with “God bless you” before asking for money. It makes him feel better to offer something in exchange for a handout.
“It’s hard panhandling and taking things from people,” he said.
Harris said he has had AIDS for 30 years. When medication stopped working, he got depressed and was evicted. Now he feels like an outcast, vulnerable and struggling to survive.
HOME: AROUND THE LOS ANGELES AREA
Dolores Epps talks tough, curses freely and tosses back sexual harassment that comes from men on the sidewalk of Skid Row.
She once had a job at a salon and still makes money cutting hair.
“I don’t touch everybody, only the people that are clean,” Epps said.
HOME: A SEATTLE STREET
The path to the streets began with a prescription for the powerful painkiller OxyContin, Harrison Perkins said.
He has a rare heart disease and pain in his legs. He began supplementing his medication with heroin, though that cost him dearly.
“That’s why my belongings are gone,” he said. “I don’t have a watch on my hand. I don’t have a wedding band. I got rid of whatever jewelry I had.”
HOME: AN RV WITH HIS PARENTS AND SIBLINGS IN MOUNTAIN VIEW, CALIFORNIA, THE HOME OF GOOGLE
The fourth-grader dreams of going to college. He knows it’s the path to a better job and a home that’s not on four wheels.
His father is a minimum-wage landscaper who moved the family to an aging camper after they were evicted from an apartment where the rent kept going up, nearing $3,000 a month. His mother is five months pregnant.
HOME: A SEATTLE TENT ENCAMPMENT
Bennie Koffa stands out among the homeless because of the way he dresses _ in a suit. Friends jokingly call him Tony Soprano because they think he looks like a mobster.
He said it’s a custom he’s maintained since his years working for the government in Liberia.
HOME: A TENT IN SEATTLE
Alicia Adara says she ended up on the street after losing a custody fight for her two children to her ex-husband.
She panhandles to survive and also gets $198 a month in food stamps. She showers at Mary’s Place, a nonprofit daycare center for homeless. Sometimes she takes sponge baths at the Seattle Ferry Terminal.
The tent she sleeps in is not the home she wants, but right now it’s the one she chooses _ and it beats living in a shelter.