A New Life, New Beginnings for Joanne
For the past eight months I have been volunteering my time taking photos of the homeless in Silicon Valley. The goal of the local group I am working with, Housing 1000, is to house 1000 chronically homeless men and women who have been on the streets for many years and struggling with severe health issues. The cost of housing them reduces the government tax money that goes toward homeless programs by almost two-thirds. Housing 1000 is part of a nation-wide program called 100,000 Homes.
Recently I took photos of a homeless woman named Joanne. Homeless for over 20 years Joanne suffered from a severe heart condition. When I first met her there was the look of hopelessness and deep sadness in her eyes as she told stories of the conditions she lived in by the creek. Being homeless was a scary, full-time job. Night time was the worst when you had to fend for your belongings while trying to get some sleep. One of the worst experiences was when someone stole her faithful puppy, her companion.
The photos above are from early November 2012. At that time she showed the tired look of someone who lived a hard life.
But just eight weeks later I barely recognized the women before me. I literally had to do a double take. Today Joanne is refreshed and incredibly happy. Her blue eyes shine like stars and there is abundance like never before. Although her new home is a modest one-bedroom that was converted from a motel chain, it is HER home and her castle. And the best part is she saved up enough money to buy a puppy from the pound and once again she has a faithful little companion.
When I first approached Housing 1000 to volunteer my time I was unsure about what to expect. I gave myself three months to see how things would progress. Today I don't see an end to volunteering my time as I am learning so much about the homeless and feel a real connection toward them. Their situation could be your situation. There are circumstances beyond our control which could result in being homeless. It is not a choice it is a result. A result of being born into a troubled family, being born to parents who were too young, being raised in a situation that provided no guidance or direction, or having one or both parents die far too young.
What I find most striking from every single homeless person I have met is that they all have a strong faith in God. They believe. They have hope. It's incredible.
It was heartwarming for me to see how Joanne has settled into her new home. She was beaming with pride to show us her home and introduce us to her puppy. But most of all she wanted to show us the treasured photos she kept in her possession all these years on the streets. She showed us photos and memorabilia of her mother and father (who worked for Pan Am) that she carried amongst her belongings all these years on the streets. And best of all now each of those photos and treasures have a home at last.
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