“They Don’t Look Homeless”

The Atlantic has a punch-to-the-gut story today about a Minneapolis woman who has collected hundreds of oral histories from homeless people. Margaret Miles takes and shares pictures of the homeless as well, and the reactions she gets to them can be startling:

Miles says that the typical response she hears when viewers look at a portrait is, “They don’t look homeless.”

“We need to ask ourselves what that means,” she says. “Somebody said, ‘Gosh, that actually looks like the guy who drives my kids’ school bus.’ Well in fact it could be, and he could not be making enough money, or could have had a health crisis, or a divorce, or some other reason, and he’s driving your kids and loving your kids and caring for your kids during his day job, and then having to sleep at night in a shelter.”

One thing she learned as the project progressed was how having photographs of ourselves and our families is a privilege that many don’t have. “If I think of myself, I have hundreds of pictures of my child, starting with his birth,” she told me. But she found that in some cases, families with small children told her, “We don’t have any pictures of our babies yet.”

Homeless people: they’re just like us, except they often don’t have smartphones or cameras with which to take ten thousand daily FB pictures of their babies. Take a moment to look at the pictures and listen to a few of the oral histories yourself at the Atlantic.

RELATED: Logan’s interview series with homeless people in New York City.

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