Sunday, March 29, 2009

Common Ingredients



"We're always a little bit sick..." say's A.J. as he clear his throat. It's midnight, below freezing and we are huddled inside an empty truck container in downtown Salt Lake. He leans forward and lights a cigarette and a ball of orange light explodes and softens around his face for two short seconds. Earlier I had to dodge A.J. with every photograph I took. He had asked me earlier not to photograph him, but tonight, the second night in a row that I was squatting with his little "family" of five homeless youth like himself, I had earned some currency of credibility. Earlier that day he leaned forward and said, "I'll be in your project...feeling pretty safe."
They aren't bad kids, it's the practice of cautiously surviving that necessitates a lifestyle that doesn't strike many on the outside as productive or positive. Whatever the reasons are for being homeless at 17, 18 or 20, a commonality arises among all those who find themselves in such a situation-getting out, starting fresh, becomes harder and a "normal" life more elusive with every night on the street. From problems with the law to lost ID cards, the street seemed to be swallowing up some of these kids. Even the ones who admittedly were making the 'choice' to be homeless quickly seemed to lose the view and opportunity to turn back. Each night leaving the shelter at 8 p.m. I could see the age in their eyes as they slowly scattered, some to shelters others to squats. It is a strange feeling to return the next morning to a warm shower and bed, knowing that a few blocks away teenagers are in a thin layer of frigid sleep, keeping an ear open for a semi that will take their temporary home away. I don't really have a solution for the homeless youth problem in Salt Lake, every kid is so unique and needs something different, the only common ingredients in the approach would probably be patience and compassion.

These pictures are from a small group of homeless youth who frequent the Homeless Youth Resource Center in Salt Lake City. The young girl and man met six days ago and are already hopelessly in love and planning to run away to someplace warmer. The day the story ran they left Salt Lake for who knows where. I have to thank all of them for allowing me to follow them around for a few days and also the HYRC to opening up their operation to me and the paper. I originally became involved with the story through the Do 1 Thing project, a campaign to raise awareness of teenage homelessness in America.


To see the video I produced on the story courtesy of Deseret News please click HERE
It provides a much larger view of the story and issue.

For more information on the Do 1 Thing Project click HERE.

17 comments:

Pretty Me!! said...

Kudos to you for this post and your work !! will watch the video later.. but i know it will be worth watch any day !!

Ruby Red said...

Mike, I love your photos, and I believe this set is especially moving. As a 19 year-old college student, I cannot imagine being homeless, sleeping on the street and not knowing where your next meal might come from. I believe you really captured the emotions of these kids, that they're real people, not just strangers to pass on the sidewalk. The picture of the scars on the girl's arm breaks my heart. Those scars are more than just marks on her arm. They are indicators of emotional wounds that will probably last as long as the scars. The story on the Deseret News website shows that these despite all the garbage they have experienced, they have hope for the future. Thanks for the story.

sour said...

beautiful photos

Jennifer said...

Wow... you really outdid yourself on this one, Mikey - blew me away. Great video and the stills really capture the feel of their lives. Glad you shared it on here...

Kena Siu said...

Hard stories, but with a lot of hope and wanting to be better and with a better future, you can read in the faces of some of them that they will make it! I really hope will be somebody there to give them the second chance they need.
Amazing images and video, I loved the one with A.J. lighting the cigarette.
Cheers!

Chelsea said...

Good work Mike!

calanan said...

Very moving work, Mike, thank you for bringing their stories to us.

Dustin said...

Great Stuff, Mike. Very Powerful.

NJ said...

It's very sad. I suppose some of the youth will find their way to a brighter future but many will end up with a lifetime on the street. I've seen these lost souls on the street near where my daughter used to live in Toronto. My thoughts were always that at one time these people were someone's child, brother, sister. They were part of someone's family whether good or bad...how did it end like this.

Maegan Burr said...

Nice job Mike, your video skills are envied.

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~PakKaramu~ said...

pak Karamu reading your blog

... said...

Great Post, Mike. Work!

ccna said...

Hey, you have a great blog here! I'm definitely going to bookmark you!
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seanjonesfoto said...

Mindful, brilliant, moving, and insightful...

Darcy said...

These photos are very moving. I never cease to be amazed at the happiness and love people find even in the most dismal situations. Your photographs say a lot. Thank you.

Melvin said...

Great images....
its Gorgeous!!!!!
thanks for sharing....
___________________
Melvin
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