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(Slide show is best viewed in full-screen mode by clicking on the arrows in the lower right-hand corner of the player. Click the right and left arrow buttons on the lower left to move through the slides. All photos by Noel Black and Michael Myers.)
Two years ago, I spent two days and nights living as a homeless person in Colorado Springs, visiting the different food lines and service organizations. I spent the first night sleeping outdoors and the second in the Salvation Army’s homeless shelter. I wrote a second-person story about it for Newspeak Magazine, which you can read HERE if you’re so inclined (it’s long). The experience left me with a great deal of empathy and a profound impression of how irreducibly complex the issue of homelessness truly is for those who are on the streets and for those trying to help them.
With so much negative attention from the media and the heated City Council meetings about the homeless camps along Monument and Fountain Creeks, photographer Michael Myers and I decided to revisit the issue from a different perspective, with different eyes and a question: Are the camps beautiful? It may seem like a strange question for a photo essay, but I think it has a great deal to do with one’s sense of dignity and home. And when you spend time on the street as a homeless person, you quickly realize that your dignity is your most valuable commodity and the thing you’ll struggle hardest to retain. In many ways it is your home.
There is a lot about the camps not to like, which is also to say that we know that there is much about the camps that isn’t beautiful. We don’t need to enumerate all the public health and safety issues here, nor to make an argument for or against any particular action. But we think it’s worth taking a close, respectful look at the camps themselves to better see the people who live in them.