Homeless man Los Angeles – infrared flash photo (Candid)
When I first heard about L.A. declaring an emergency on homelessness I thought they were going to outlaw being homeless and make it a crime to assist a homeless person.
That is what some cities have done. You give money or food to a homeless person and now you’re a criminal.
L.A., San Fran and N.Y. are all tough cities when it comes to living expenses. Recently, I wanted to go to San Fran to do some shooting for one of my projects. A ‘nothing motel’ in San Fran proper, with car parking was $500 to $600 a day.
The other day I was in Kroger’s and was shopping for apples. They had some Honeycrisp apples at $3.99 a pound. I weighed one apple and it came in at $2.25. That got me thinking about how can poor people afford to live nowadays with the high cost of living.
The lady above died a short time after I shot her (candid) and the concrete bench was torn down. Her house was the concrete bench at L.A.’s MacArthur Park. The lady below used to sleep in back of a restaurant waiting for them to empty the trash so she could eat. You would think that in the richest country on the planet things would be better for the poor.
Last time I was in L.A. I asked a guy living in Santa Monica how much he is paying for rent in a apartment building at the beach. He said 3 guys live in a 1 bedroom and split $2600 a month rent. He told me they take weekly turns at sleeping in the bedroom.
Average cost for an apartment in L.A. is $1522, San Francisco is $2277 and N.Y. is $3233. (In my own case I’m not poor, but I can’t afford any of these rents nor can I afford a steady diet of $2.25 a piece apples either.)
The commonly thrown around figures for comfortable living within one’s means says you should only spend 25% to 35% of your income on rent. If we average that figure out to 30%, that would mean a person has to make $5,000 a month income for L.A., $7,500 a month income for San Fran and $10,750 a month income for living in N.Y.
I can see why it is easy to become homeless nowadays if you lose a foothold for a month or two and you are living paycheck to paycheck. Virtually impossible to ever get back on your feet unless someone gives you a hand up…a big hand. First and last months rent plus security deposit in L.A. may be approaching $5,000 to $6,000. In N.Y., one would need close to $10,000. Really, with the high cost of living nowadays, I’m surprised there are not a ton more homeless people in the US.
I’ve had a taste of homelessness, boondocking in a vehicle, washing up in supermarket bathrooms and foraging for food. It is weird feeling not knowing where your going to sleep every night. I was lucky and had a vehicle to sleep in and a home to go back to…it is something else to sleep on concrete.
I read an article on Robert Frank. It mentioned how he was vey poor in his early years and how he stopped wearing socks to save money. Now that he is well off, very well off, he still does not wear socks. It also talked about how he does not buy train tickets and just steals rides. Some habits we develop in lean times are hard to break.
Back in the 1970’s it was a different world to live in. In the early 70’s before the oil crunch gasoline was .23 cents a gallon. A one bedroom apartment in L.A. was $150 a month. Studios were $75 to $95. Tuition at L.A.C.C. cost $6.50 a semester and Cal State L.A. was $63 a trimester. For one tuition fee a student could take as many classes as they liked. If you attended a junior college for the first 2 years, a bachelor’s degree could be had for $450 to $500 in tuition costs. Houses in L.A.’s Miracle Mile district, that sell for 2 to 3 million dollars now, only cost $25,000.
Sometimes people ask why shoot the homeless?
I don’t specialize in shooting homeless people. Maybe 1% of my portfolio is homeless people. Is 1% of one’s output too much for some people? I guess they won’t be satisfied unless it is 0%?
In any case, I can do the homeless no greater honor than to put a few of them into a museums permanent collection. Homelessness is part of our world and is to be documented just like any other human condition for the social documentary photog.
I’m glad others did the same…and didn’t listen to the cynical critics.
This fellow had a good job and worked in the fashion industry in NYC before becoming homeless. He said his pants were made from old drapes. He folded up the jacket he is leaning on to keep the outside clean to give a good appearance to the world. He was homeless, but he still had dignity.
I don’t have the answers. Greed is a big part of the problem…you know, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. As they wring the oil out of the sand and crack the rocks to find the last pockets of gas…the writing is on the wall.