By Noah Wali
Today marks the beginning of something big. I, Noah Wali, am formally unraveling a new project; Hopeful Homeless.
The purpose of my project is for homeless people in Portland to be approached as humans, talked to, and asked if their photo can be taken.
Hopeful Homeless will solely be featured on social media, and more information on this is yet to come in later weeks. The purpose of this project is to raise awareness of the Portland homeless crisis, figure out solutions to make life better for homeless, and for people to see the homeless community as a part of the identity of our city, not just a nuisance.
To begin this project, I am going to share information and words exchanged between a homeless man living in Portland and me from awhile back:
As I am walking down the waterfront near the Steel Bridge, I catch a man peeking out from a small shrub in a corner. He appears to be sitting, and as I walk closer I can make out a wheelchair. The man doesn’t see me, but I see him speed off in his black torn down wheelchair down the street and I decide to follow him. He is quite fast. Eventually we get to Old Town and he slows down. I pull out the wrinkly 4 bucks in my front pocket and keep it handy as I walk towards the innocent man.
“Hey there sir! I am working on a photography project for my class and we are talking to and documenting homeless people all around Portland! Would you mind your picture being taken and us having a conversation for a little for 4 bucks and 25 cents?”
At the time I was at a PSU street photography class (creds to Asa for the help and taking this class with me), and our mission was to snap photos of people, and I thought it would be interesting to add an interview element into it, not knowing later on this would be an article in the Dig and become a project…
“Oh… Um.. Sure.. But not for too long…”
His response was hesitant, but once I pointed the camera at him he loved it! I’d say this man could’ve been anyone’s grandfather with his smile, he could’ve even been Post Malone. Who knows.
After snapping a couple photos, he began to mumble a little, and then he went on to smoke a cigarette before we continued talking.
I asked him for his name, and it seemed really difficult for him to say it. He was not the best with words, but up until this point he hadn’t had a lot of trouble with speaking. He explained to me how he couldn’t tell me his name because he had been in previous “trouble with the law”. I wasn’t sure how serious his troubles had been, and decided not to ask out of respect.
I had his attention for the next 2 minutes, up until one of his lady friends came and snatched him away before I could ask anything else.
In these two minutes, he told me he was born and raised in the outskirts of Miami, finished high school there, but never went to college after his mother died his senior year. After living with his dad and two brothers in Miami for a while working at a local McDonald’s, he decided to go visit some high school buddies out in Portland. With the only money he had left from work, he bought a plane ticket in ‘02 and hasn’t left since. He’s interviewed for multiple jobs but hasn’t gone anywhere so far. He eventually turned to the streets where he’s been living in tents, etc.
So, I didn’t get a name. This small conversation happened a long while back, and I didn’t have a long interview. However, this is just the beginning. This is a tiny sneak peak, a snippet of what’s to come. Homeless people matter!