The Face of Sacramento's Homeless, a PBS project.

November 15, 2019  •  3 Comments

 What do you need?  

   For much of 2019, I've been visiting with Sacramento's homeless population as Director of Photography for a new PBS KVIE program.  Hopefully we were able to discover what people struggle with, and find out what they need most of all.  

   These are some of the people I've met. 


   We spent several mornings with "Moody", who has blood clots in both feet and suffers from significant mental health conditions.   Attempts to house Moody have proven unsuccessful, so Moody continues to call K street home. 

  Living in a tent near North A street, she told me she's been robbed twenty-two times.  A few weeks later on my second visit, she was screaming at the men gathered outside of her tent to leave her alone.   


  "They call me Doobie".  When I visited with this gentle woman on K Street, she described to us the difficulties finding housing while having canine companions.  My heart breaks for these three. 


   An intravenous drug user we found living under the freeway, this young man's tent was surrounded by bicycles and needles.  He told me he does whatever it takes to survive, and only steals from the rich.  

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  Many times, retirement income and social security isn't enough to pay for housing in California, so this retired couple lives in their car in Sacramento. 


  Living in a tunnel underneath Mack road, surrounded by human waste, this young man was waiting to find out about the possibility of shared housing.  Like many experiencing homelessness, he continues to live near the neighborhood he grew up in. 


   A product of what many describe as California's broken foster care system, this woman shared that she chooses to live on the streets with her partner.  The dozens of cuts on her arms suggest a painful past, coping mechanisms many of us can only imagine.  


  Speaking in fragments that were difficult to understand, this woman's mental health condition represents what we found in so many we spoke with.  Without treatment, her outlook seems very bleak.  


  Laurie lives in her van and searches for her homeless son, who has untreated schizophrenia.  Suffering from untreated cancer herself, Laurie said to us, "I can't recover in a van." DSC00353-3DSC00353-3

   It's clean out day on North A street.  The green tag placed on this tent by Sacramento Police means she has until the end of the day to grab her stuff, and move.  Many of the tents relocated just one block away, continuing the cycle that seems to help no one.  


  When we spoke to her at Caesar Chavez Park in downtown Sacramento, this friendly woman told us about all the individuals living there.  She took the time to describe to us the specific help she thought each person needed. 

  For ten years, this gentleman has called a tent on the American River Parkway home, all while suffering from untreated physical and mental health conditions.  He offered to show me around his camp, while quietly revealing to me his family in Sacramento owns several houses.    


  Forced to move, she's only a few hours away from losing everything.  Nearly everyone we met on clean out day was asking for more garbage bags. 


   A bike trailer on the American River Parkway hauls a precious little dog.  I've been a bike commuter on the Parkway for over fifteen years, and I've had to change and adapt my route as the noticeable dangers have increased near downtown.  A once proud part of Sacramento seems to be on it's slow march towards decay.     DSC00742DSC00742

   Tents are everywhere in Sacramento.  Images from our drone show how a street next to a vacant lot becomes a makeshift community.    DJI_0039DJI_0039DCIM\100MEDIA\DJI_0039.JPG

 This young woman was across town when she found out her tent had to be moved, so she rushed up on her bicycle while we were filming.  Originally from Bakersfield, she didn't know where to go next, and was asking police for more garbage bags.  


  Crossing the Watt bridge during the evening commute, this gentleman heads for the camps on the south side of the American River.  



  I don't know the answers, I don't have any solutions.  Instead, I document reality and hope all of you are inspired in your own personal way.  This has been one of the hardest projects I've ever worked on, because at the end of the day, I get to go home.  I say goodbye, I thank them for sharing their life with me, and then I get in my car and leave, heading for a warm home, medical care, and the love of my family.   

  Walking away at the end of the day is the hardest part of my job. 

I hope some day our society decides that everyone is worth caring about. 





Marcella Brown(non-registered)
Thank you so much for your bravery and especially for the courage & compassion to share the truth, even if no one wants to hear that truth.
"The true integrity
of a man
is shown in how he treats
those who can
do nothing for him. . ."
Holly Faulls(non-registered)
Just no words..... horrifically beautifully done
Carolyn Gill(non-registered)
First off, Amazing photography and amazing Courage to SHOW UP in every way. Thank you for sharing the TRUTH behind so much sadness. These people don't Choose to live like this, their Health and their circumstances choose it for them. I hope the Truth and the Rawness of these pictures will help people understand that this problem is also OUR problem. MENTAL HEALTH is high on the list. May we all take this IN. This is not a coffee table book you look at and say those are pretty pictures. This is a book that says "OMG, how can I help". Well done.
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