The HOMELESS

As the song goes: “It’s the most happiest time of the the year”; time to wish a Happy Thanksgiving, a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all! The annual pilgrimage of distant families has begun. The turkey dinners are on the table, and all the symbols of the season are in full swing; that is of course, unless you happen to be this unfortunate guy. Now I don’t mean to bring you down at this most cheerful time of the year. Ironically however, there can be no better time than now to shine a light on the separation between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nothings.’

How many times have we walked past these ‘street people’ and felt uncomfortable at the mere sight of them? Oftentimes we lie to ourselves that we don’t even see them. Other times we console our consciences with the fact they’ve brought their circumstances upon themselves. Indeed some did, but then again maybe they are merely the victims of circumstances beyond their control.

Who ARE these people? The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) estimate there are more than 600,000 sheltered and unsheltered homeless persons nationwide. In addition upwards of 2 million people use some sort of emergency shelter or other transitional housing program.

The homeless also include those who reside in homeless shelters at night, in warming shelters, and domestic violence shelters. These unsheltereds also include people who sleep in pulic or private places like subways and cars.

There is an additional aspect to this tragic tale; one rarely acknowledged. In one recent year alone nearly 1,600,000 people used emergency shelters or transitional housing. This is equivalent to 1 in every 200 persons in the United States. This total included 1,115,000 individuals and 485,000 families. Many of these were children and many others were military veterans.

Adding to their misery, these unfortunate men and women are often forced to endure a further insult, one rarely addressed. It is violent crime. A 2007 study found that the rate of crimes against the homeless are on the rise.

To illustrate the depth and desperation of homelessness many
have committed crimes merely to be sent to jail or prison in order to find food and shelter. In police slang, this is called “three hots and a cot” referring to the three hot daily meals each inmate receives along with a cot on which to sleep.

Over the last decade, data concerning homelessness has greatly improved, due in part to initiatives by (HUD),the US Department of Health and Human Services, the US Department of Veterans Affairs, and several nongovernmental organizations working with homeless populations. Furthermore, (HUD) has issued an Annual Homeless Assessment Report, which “reports to Congress the number of individuals and families who are homeless in the previous year, both sheltered and unsheltered.”

Ever wonder what street people carry in their backpacks or pushcarts? It’s their most urgent and precious belongings: bedding, clothing and possessions. These must be carried at all times for they are the things that provide shelter, warmth, quiet, and privacy, especially for sleeping.

If you ever wondered how these street people became homeless in the first place, here are some causes:
mental illness or the lack of needed services,
substance abuse and lack of needed services.
low-paying jobs.
child support enforcement
prisoner release.

Though I don’t want to overwhelm you with statistics there are some you might find illuminating.

Children under 18 make up 27% of the homeless population; People between the ages of 3 and 50 makeup 51%.

Single adults who are homeless are most likely to be men. They account for 45% of the single adults who are homeless. Single women make up 14%

Ethnicity- African American – 57%; Caucasian – 30%; Hispanic -10%; Native American – 2%; Asian – 1%

50% of America’s homeless women and children are running from domestic abuse.

Veterans – Of all homeless men 40% of them have served in the armed forces. Only 34% of the total adult male population has served in the armed forces 19% of the urban homeless population are veterans.

So, the next time we see a man or woman laying on a street corner we might want to stop and engage him or her in conversation, not merely as a curiosity or a statistic but as a real person. If you can’t find anything to say, the least you can do is care. Remember that same homeless person started life with the same hopes and dreams as you. Who knows what awaits us in our own voyage through life. A sudden change can alter our situation in a blink of an eye. You might find some compassion for him or her.
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This blog began with a reference to a joyous song. I’ll end it with cautious one: “I’m talking ’bout the man in the mirror”. (MJ)

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CHILDREN

Ah kids, ya gotta luv’em. Well maybe not all of them. But those under the age of 6 are especially cute and cuddly, just like adorable puppies and kittens. Although I generally avoid most cute little boys and girls as subjects, there are some I can’t avoid. The same holds true for kittens and puppies. Don’t get me wrong however; it’s not that I have a dislike of kids, or pets for that matter, it’s just that taking photos of the little buggers is like shooting fish in a barrel. Besides, photographing kids doing cute things seem so cliche-ish. That said, I must confess there are times that I give in and actually shoot those proverbial cuties in their barrels. The images below are a few examples.

This little photographer composes and focuses on her subject.

This young street urchin stole my heart on the streets of Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico.

Although this young girl and her fawns represent what I call a shameless photographic cliche, I could not avoid the innocence of the moment.

Two little Mexican girls make the final adjustments in preparation for the fiesta.

Two little adorable Mexican sweeties

These three little smiling boys begged to have their pictures taken, and I was all but too eager to oblige them.

And finally, a photo of a boy and his dog, the ultimate cliche; yet a satisfying one for this non-apologetic photographer.

While wars, financial crises and natural disasters are daily reminders of our fragile existance it is often refreshing to stop and capture the innocence of a small boy and his dog before returning to the not so realities of our daily lives.

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blog by: Ron Saunders

You can view my photography at: 345.PhotoShelter.com
and http://www.bajareflections.com

WHAT IS ART?

By the way, don’t expect an answer here. From my viewpoint it is merely one of those unanswerable questions we love to debate yet knowing we can never truly define it. It is similar to the word “nowhere“, we can’t describe it, but we know it exists. That said, it would seem the real question should be why do we persist in seeking an answer to that which is unanswerable? Much greater minds than I have tackled the definition of art. Some say it is merely that which is born of human creativity. Others say art is a form of creative expression, that is channeled in different ways. Our concept of art today however, is somewhat different than what it had been in earlier times. Then, an artist was not seen an artist as we now perceive it. In fact, the idea of art and artist are relatively recent perceptions.

In the end where does that leave us? Is there any definitive interpretation of art? Could there be some objective standard that separates  the paintings of Da Vinci from the gang sprayings on an inner city building?  Personally I cannot say but I concur with Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart when he said, regarding pornography, “I know it when I see it.”

SO, what is art? I invite you to render your opinions on the images below, all of which depict a variety of  forms that, in your view, may or may not be described as art.





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blog by: Ron Saunders

You can view my photography at:
345.PhotoShelter.com
and Baja Reflections
http://www.bajareflections.com/