I dream big.
Probably too big.
So instead of me telling you how I started this photo project that helped countless people, I am going to tell you about my failures.
Because I failed. I don’t mind admitting it because if you live in Hawaii, you are probably failing too. You are probably driving right by the problem, too busy to stop. Or like me, not even sure how to help.
But it is also filled with mind blowing sadness, because in my world, kids shouldn’t be living on the street. Ever. Especially in America cause we can do better.
Just outside of the Children’s Discovery Center (a place lots of us take our kids for an overpriced, educational afternoon) is the biggest homeless community I have ever seen. Two miles away from Waikiki in the heart of downtown Honolulu. It’s the same zip code as most of the military bases.
The first time I drove past, a baby in a diaper ran out of a tent in front of my car. My kids already ate the lunches I packed, but a food truck was parked nearby selling popcorn. So I grabbed a bag and took it back. Fucking popcorn.
Why is no one doing anything?
Honestly, I just don’t think most people know they are there. It is a block off the main road, a place you probably wouldn’t turn unless you were going to Kakaako Park.
So thats my angle, awareness.
Early this week I set out to talk and photograph as many families as I could. I assumed some people wouldn’t receive me, but I KNEW that my intentions would translate, and I could help.
The first tent on the block had a woman with three babies all playing on the cold morning in diapers. She was wearing a colorful shirt and smiling as she talked to another mom. “I don’t like you” she said.
And so it went. Over and over. The people I am trying to help just sending me away.
“What do you need?”
“Everything, look at my bed.” That was the most I got from one man. He allowed me to photograph his tent, but not him.
One group of women did chat with me, and let me photograph them, but they barely spoke English. A woman managed to tell me that she needs medicine, her eye is infected, and she needs water.
I wasn’t surprised that people wouldn’t let me photograph them, though I hoped for a few really moving images to shock people into reality.
What I am really sad about is how little anyone would even talk to me.
The very last woman who turned me down for photos is a woman named Natalie- which didn’t surprise me, because Natalie won’t even take food from me. She doesn’t live in the same group but she is well known around here. She lives under a bus stop on one of the main roads. Can’t miss her. She has created a shelter with a beach umbrella. An america flag and a stuff Santa Claus hang above her enclosure. Police drive past her everyday. Construction is happening in her “front yard” even. Three years I have been here and she never moved. I have heard she has been here over ten years but how could anyone know for sure- she doesn’t even make sense when she talks. Natalie clearly suffers from horrific mental illness, and the system is failing her, worse than I am failing at this picture thing.
I didn’t expect life changing amounts of money to be donated to the nearest shelter, but I was dreaming of motivating people. To go beyond updating their Facebook status with latest hashtag movement, and sit down and write a letter to their lawmakers asking for a change. To motivate people to take the 20 minute ride to drop off their clothes, toys, and blankets instead of posting it for sale for $5 on some garage sale page. Or worse, throwing into bulk trash. It is sickening to walk around on bulk trash day in the military neighborhoods.
I can hear the naysayers now, “They are druggies.” or “They need to help themselves.” It doesn’t matter. There are kids. Lots and lots of kids.
So please if you are reading this- I admit to my failures. But don’t you fail at the simple task of dropping off water a few blocks away.
“I myself am made entirely of flaws, stitched together with good intentions.”