I see homelessness in Oxford.
I passed a woman sleeping on the street in the middle of the afternoon. Her dog sleeping next to her in a garbage bag. A few weeks ago, I stopped after a midnight grocery run to chat with a magazine vendor experiencing homelessness. We chatted about my summer internship with KNO. He had some boots, but no socks. I heard that casual kind of disappointment:
“Darn, yeah. Woulda loved some socks.”
But, why does it matter for me to tell you this? It’s rather tiring. On top of that, I don’t even believe that you need a house to have a home. Many houses aren’t full of the love and warmth and protection that our imaginations like to make up. Sleeping on a sidewalk doesn’t necessarily mean this woman has no deeper sense of home. Not having socks doesn’t mean the man is an alien to comfort or emotional warmth. I am sometimes tempted to say that the issues of homelessness are insignificant.
Yet, there is something profound and awful about the lack of a house. The comforts and the safety of walls, doors, plumbing, and lighting can change a person’s world. Waking up in a bed instead of waking up on a dark street corner… It could very well change the whole of one’s life. The holidays spent in a house might just create a home.
Maybe it is tiring to keep thinking about all these people, somewhere, out on the streets. Yet, I can’t find a reason to not want houses for them, either. So, despite the seasonal “compassion fatigue” that can often hit us, I thought I’d share this with you: rexpix.tumblr.com
I hope this kind of art can be redeeming for you, me, and the photographed people experiencing homelessness. Rex Hohlbein is not just a photographer, but an architect with a passion for building houses and homes and it comes through in these portraits.
Enjoy. And don’t forget to be a part of KNOvember.