About a month ago, I met with CityBeat’s New Media Director Cameron Knight. The best advice he had for me as a student studying photojournalism is to do a project before I graduate. The point of this project is that I’m learning to tell a story as a student and I’m doing it on my own with no assistance from a class. Since my medium of choice is photography, then I need to choose something that has visual variety. He also stressed that I do it about a person and I need to show my viewers what is so appealing about this person. Obviously, I’m still trying to figure out what I want to accomplish in the end. However, I’d like future employers and networking contacts to see how motivated I am and how eager I am to hear and tell stories.
So I have a certain connection with non-profit organizations. If I could encourage all of the fellow citizens I know, I would press upon getting involved in a non-profit at least once in one’s life.
Anyway, after much research, I called the Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless (GCCH). They are actually a group for advocacy and they support several organizations in the greater Cincinnati area that help the homeless in a variety of ways. I spoke with Gregory Flannery, the editor of GCCH’s alternative free newspaper Street Vibes, who gave me some advice and encouragement. He gave me the name and number of a social worker, Chico Lockhart. (Street Vibes had a story about Chico in their January 2009 issue on page 3 titled Eight Minutes with a ‘Street Walker.’) He works for Block-by-Block and the Downtown Cincinnati Incorporated and his job is to walk around the downtown business district and look for homeless people. If they want his help, then he starts the process of getting them off the streets.
What really caught my attention is that there are people that have been living a life on the street for so long that they don’t want the help to get off the street to a better life. They choose to stay on the street.
Last Friday, I spent all afternoon walking around downtown with Chico. I met a variety of people who are struggling to survive. They “fly their sign” and hope that patrons passing by will toss a few coins into their cup.
Our first stop was Court Street. We ran into 50-something “Bo,” short for Andrew Robert Beausoleil. I asked him if he ever asks his family for help, and he says,
“I don’t ask. I don’t wanna. I’ll do it on my own. If I can’t do it on my own, I don’t want it.”
In my opinion, he spoke with energy but he seemed tired. Bo also was very intrigued with his cup of coffee and stressed that he drinks coffee all day. I hope to talk with Bo some more, but for now, here are a few pictures: