I live in an urban neighborhood close to downtown Greenville, SC. Just a few blocks away is a Salvation Army shelter and Triune Mercy Center who feeds the local homeless population four days a week, provides drug and alcohol recovery, medical assistance, art and theatre classes, and mental health counseling. The Salvation Army shelter is located adjacent to the Mercy Center and accepts the homeless each evening but must turn away those who arrive after the beds have filled. Rutherford Street and parts of Poinsett Highway in Greenville are common areas for the homeless to congregate; you can see them during the day - sitting at the steps of Triune waiting for the doors to open for lunch or circling the Spinx gas station hoping some kind stranger will buy them something to eat.
Because I’ve been in their neighborhood for about eleven years, I’ve befriended some of them and try to help when I can. I also began to make their portraits in 2017, both on the street and at Triune Mercy Center. Many people don’t notice the street people as they drive into downtown Greenville on Highway 25, but I can’t forget their faces. I see them every day. Fifty-seven-year-old Peewee sits on top of a stone wall in front of the Radio Room most weekdays; he never misses the opportunity to wave at me. Pat likes to sit on the wall at Quik Trip facing Rutherford Street across from McDonald’s - he likes chicken nuggets. You can’t miss 6’4” Otis as he makes his way to Triune from the county library where he draws pictures of futuristic characters almost every day. I like to think about the humanity of my less fortunate neighbors - under the surface of their rough exterior. I also like to imagine them as when they were children full of hopes and dreams.