These stories and portraits were captured by the founder of Humanity Showers, Jordan Verdin. Jordan believes that storytelling is a way to build bridges and provide dignity. Dignifying storytelling contributes to creating inferences and information that can dismantle stereotypes and bias associated with folks who are experiencing homelessness.
"My name is Harmon, and I am 21 years old. I've been homeless a little over a year now. What makes me happy is seeing others smile and making sure my family has everything they need. I enjoy helping other people. My dream is to make sure everyone that matters to me has what they need. I try to do good to others whenever I can. I get clean clothes but I see others need it more, so I give it away. This is the way I was taught. I had a set of great parents. They both passed away. Homelessness can happen to anyone; before this, I was making good money, and I was motivated. The most challenging aspect of being homeless is keeping yourself together and staying clean, keeping your mood stable. A lot of people, including myself, get so depressed that your motivational level drops. You don't have the motivation to accomplish goals when you feel so sad about your situation. What I need most is someone to care for me and a safe place to sleep. I feel hopeless. I feel like no one notices me, and no one cares. Ever since my parents died, I haven't felt that anyone cares about me. Sometimes I do feel invisible. Over a month ago, I was hit by a car, and I was lying in the streets, screaming and crying for help. No one would help or call 911 for me. People just ignored me, and no one would do anything. I felt like I was a ghost. It destroyed me to know that people didn't care about me."
Encourage, don’t discourage. You’re supposed to encourage people for things to get better. Stop being mean and nasty putting them down; you aren’t helping anyone by putting them down. We are all human. We all hurt; if it hurts you, it will hurt us. My name is Rose, I am 50 years old and I have been homeless for five years now. My addictions are what brought me to the streets. The most difficult part of being homeless is always looking over your shoulder to see who is following you, never feeling safe. You can’t sleep well, and it wears you down quick. Please don’t look down on me; you don’t know me or what I’ve been through. Quit assuming don’t be quick to stereotype others, before I was in this situation, I served in the military, and I graduated college. My dream now is for everyone to unite and quit hating each other. I would also like to get a place.
“My name is Espi; I am 56 years old. My big downfall was the drug scene; I could not leave it alone until my wife left me. I lost my family. I used drugs to get away from the realities of life, My dad was a drug addict, and I grew up watching him. So I'm not blaming them. But that's all I saw. The first time I used drugs was around 12 years old. I've been homeless for a little over a year; simply, what I miss most is having a home to have a place to take a shower and clean my clothes. It's not easy. Hopefully, my dream is to get a little job again and go back home and be with my family. I haven't been there for my kids all through their life; I've been in and out. So, maybe a second chance at being a father to them.”
“My name is Keri, and I am 44 years old. More than anything, I was a mom; things didn't go well. There was a lot of domestic violence in my life. The time finally came when I had to get out. I've been homeless since 2016. Society thinks that we are somehow different from them, that we aren't human the way they are, that we don't have the same needs or wants, or that we don't have any self-respect. I enjoy human contact probably more than anything else because it's always interesting; it's always different. What I've learned on the streets is that things aren't what they seem. You have to look further into some things. I don't think people realize how much other people have to offer. I have never had people be more giving than when I've been homeless. Someone who has nothing is always giving something; that, to me, is amazing. I live for smiles, to see other people happy daily. My biggest need right now is some writing materials."
My name is Calvin, and I am 46 years old. I've been homeless on and off for about 17 years. What lead me to the street was not having a job, employment problems. I don't have the money to pay my bills or live in a place. I have never had a drug or alcohol problem. I have no history of being a gang member or even owning a weapon. I like to help people. I like to learn, and I like to teach. My dream is that I could continue going to school and hopefully teach. I went to college, and I got an associate's degree. I have a job interview lined up for this week, and I am hopeful that I will get the job.
"We all have worked and had our own homes, and had families, and lives; everything, it just got taken one day. We all have a different story to tell, we’re not all the same; some are worse than others. So I just make the best of it; I just try to blend in. I don't want to be noticed as some kind of burden to anyone; I don't want to be a problem. My name is Patricia; I am 40 years old. I was married for 19 years. I struggle just like anyone else. I became homeless after I left my husband, it was an abusive relationship. I've been on the streets for 12 years now. My dream is that I would like to be able to go back to school."
I became homeless in January of last year but I fought it. I went to transitional housing last June, and January this year I became homeless again. Before I was homeless, I was a gunner in the army; I served two tours in Iraq. We had indirect fire every single day. I had a few close calls. I remember an IED hit the truck beside me, and another time a motor landed right next to me. I put up this emotional wall to treat that like it was normal, and when I came home the wall didn't come all the way down. I was emotionally numb. When I got out I was going to college and I was having panic attacks all the time from my homework; I would wake up crying. My brother told me that I had PTSD. I went to go get treatment and I was given 100% disability. The way people treat you is the hardest part of being homeless, there is a war on the homeless. You can't go anywhere without mistreatment. I was shopping at a store and people would follow me like I was going to steal, it was the worst.
My name is Diana; I’ve been living on the streets since February . Before I was homeless, I was living my dream, and I know I will live it again. My dream was to own my own cleaning company. I did that, and I was making great money. What took me to the streets was being relocated. My husband beat me up pretty bad. I had six broken ribs and a concussion. The domestic violence team put me on the bus and told me not to come back, and since then, I’ve been out here on the street. It’s hard to stay positive, I’ve been applying for jobs, and I’m doing everything I can to get off the street. What would be nice is if we could get support from the community. They can support us by not making us feel like we’re lesser of a person for being in this situation. I’ve been ridiculed and demeaned for being here. All I can say is, treat other people how you want to be treated.
Beauty is not skin deep, honey. Your innate intelligence and inner-strength are not based on what you look like, but how you treat others. Homeless people all come from somewhere, and they come from a heritage. Somehow we are all connected; we are all brothers and sisters. The bible says we are all from the same tree, just different branches. My name is Tamela. I've been homeless for 11 years. What makes me happy is the fact that I've been a parent and that I can help others. I'm about people. I'm about protecting women. I did 27 years of recovery. There are so many different issues out here on the streets; drugs aren't the only issue. But people sharing needles is a big problem, that's how all these sicknesses get around. This week I met with a team that said they could get me housing, so I hope that works out.
The most challenging aspect of being homeless is not having a safe, protected place to sleep—a place where you aren't criminalized for just sleeping. We are criminalized for our afflictions by all of the anti-homeless laws. There are businesses out here that have stopped accepting EBT. They are telling people I don't need to serve you; we don't care about you. There is a lack of consciousness. People want us to have jobs, but how can we do that when we can't sleep? You wouldn't be able to function; you wouldn't do well in your interview. We are in survival mode. My name is Rodney, and I am 51 years old. I've been chronically homeless since I was 17 years old. I had emotional instability from being traumatized. I was beaten as a child. I became so unstable that I became shutout of all social networks, family, friends, school, even homeless services. I'm currently out here working in the trenches. I am peer support for those out there that need it. A lot of people out here merely need to be shown mercy and love. People are hurt out here, and they need healing. I dream that communities could come about from those that have been loved and healed out here. God made every human being not one is disposable. One day we will have to answer how we treated the widows, orphans, and those in need. God documented his heart for the poor. Whatever mercy you have for others will be extended to you.
Angel & Rico
This is Ron Rico Suave, I rescued him, and he is now the joy of my life. He picked me. I didn't pick him. He kissed my hand, and I knew he was the one. He can detect my strokes. I have had five mini stokes while I've been out here. Life is so stressful and intense out here. My name is Angel; May 1st will be four years that I've been homeless. I was living with a family friend, and when they passed away, I didn't have anywhere to live. The most challenging aspect for me being out here on the streets is my mental illness. I feel like I'm falling in this deep hole and I'm not going to come out, I reach up, and no one is there. I feel like I am invisible; you would be amazed at the things people say and do when they don't think you are listening. My dream is to own a house. It would be nice to be able to have a place to call home. If I could share something with people who aren't homeless, I would say, see us for who we are, don't look at us with disdain or contempt. We have lives to live, things to do, people to feed, just like you. If you look into our hearts, we are just like you. The only difference is we don't have a place to live.
My name is Bret, I'm 56 years old. I've been homeless on and off since 2012. This time I've been homeless for a year and a half. I became homeless due to health issues. I had a stroke in 2008 and a heart attack in 2015. Before I was homeless I worked in construction. Finding a place to sleep, clean up, and eat are my biggest needs. I have so many worries when I’m out here. It's kind of hard because I can't just focus on one thing I have to focus on everything at once. My dream is to not be homeless anymore. What I want people to know is that we aren't all bad people, we are just without houses. When you see us, don't cross the street, we notice that kind of stuff.
Picture us like your mother, like a family member. Would you treat them like that? Would you call them that name? Would you throw something at them? Would you shut the door on them? We all have families, and we all have friends, just like you. The most challenging part of being homeless is being judged. I'm not big on what other people think of me as far as that goes. I'm strong, but it's hard because sometimes we want to go into a place and have a cup of coffee or use the restroom and we are kicked out, and those are things that we are willing to pay for. My name is Laurie, and I'm 50 years old. I've been out on the streets for five years. I've been on my own since I was 15. I spent ten years going across all 48 states, helping others. Family and friends are what make me happy. I like to tend to others. I like to give; I want to be there to be a part of someone else's needs. My dream was always to find true love and happiness. If I could share a life tip, I would say, stop and smell the roses; sounds very cliche, but if you keep hustling and bustling, you tend to forget why you are doing it all for. People say I'm building a house for my family, but they forget about their family and what they are hustling for. So, stop and remember why you are doing what you are doing.
My name is Eric; I am 31 years old. Love makes me happiest in life. My dream is to be a light to other people. I've been homeless for the last two years. I come from a strict religious South American family. When I was 15 years old, I was outed to my family about being gay. They confronted me, and I was honest with them. I was kicked out of my house, and I've been bouncing around since. I'm alive but not fully alive. Six months ago, I found out I am HIV positive. Out here, you are invisible. We are all people, and you never know what someone is going through. Just be kind; don't be so quick to judge others. Don't point out the splinter in my eye when you have a plank in yours. Not all homeless are drug addicts or crazy. Mental health issues do exist, and there is no support system for us. Drugs are real out here; people use drugs to cope. Everyone is trying to cope with something. We are people just like you. Currently, my biggest need is love and a tent. I lost my tent last night in the storm, and that's all I had left, now I have nothing. I know its all part of a bigger plan. I try to stay positive so that I can be a light for others out here on the streets.
Not a lot makes me happy when you don't have anything to look forward to; it’s really difficult to find something to be happy about. Normal things make me happy, making coffee, watching silly game shows, walking into a store, and them not thinking you are going to steal something just because you are homeless. Businesses treat you like you are nothing. People don't understand that it's not easy. Just to be able to sit somewhere and belong, having somewhere to belong is important. We don't become homeless by choice. I got evicted from my house because I ran out of money and it's hard to find somewhere to live when you have no money. My name is Diana, I am 61 years old, and I have been homeless for a little over a year now. We always try to make sure that we don't leave trash behind and that we aren't looting people's property, we don't have anywhere to go. We sleep in the truck. My dream is to get out of the truck and find some little place to rent. If people wanted to help me, they could help by getting me socks; they are always handy. Also, toilet paper and a blanket would be good.
My name is Greg. I have been homeless for a little over three years. It's humbling seeing the people out here. I had a house, and I had a boat in the harbor. There are people out here that have worked for NASA, and there are those that have a severe mental illness. I'm amazed at how much mental illness there is out here. People think that we are all drug addicts, that we are making the community look bad. We are just trying to get by.It's getting tough out here. We are people, too; we aren't out to hurt anybody. We aren't different than anyone else. Talk to us, don't shy away. We all live by the same rules. There is nowhere to charge our phones, to shower, they are limiting places near us that take EBT so that we don't stay in the area. Make it easier for us to get up, not harder. Some of the community brings that on themselves, there is a drug problem and a mental illness problem, but it's not just the homeless. I like helping people, and I feel like I get to do it out here. I do want to get off the streets. I like to sleep in a bed and working.