” How we treat the vulnerable is how we define ourselves as a species.” ~Russell Brand
Last year winter I decided to produce a series of photo essays on the homeless population in downtown Saint Louis Missouri. One early Saturday morning I headed down to Loctus street near the new library and NLEC [New Life Evangelistic Center] where most of the less fortunate dwell. I had my photographer and son in tow; believing it is important to instill the value of life in children early I felt it was important that he be with me. We stopped to grab several cups of fresh coffee and some breakfast muffins to hand out to those individuals who consented to speaking with us.
Sheltered and somewhat green having grown up in middle class suburbia I was a little hesitant in actually approaching people and asking for an interview. The first person I approached was a woman sitting in front of the library, it was her smile and pleasant disposition amidst the chaos that initially made me choose her. After offering her a coffee we began to talk, her voice was soft and kind but her story was dark and sad. I learned that Kameshia, 41, was a current resident of NLEC [aka Larry Rice] after having lost her home in Illinois she was mother of two adult children. She smiled as she told me about her children who were in college and doing well, she spoke about her mother and a few other things. When questioned about her reason for being homeless it was her answer that surprised me, “Because I am living with a disease, it is called HIV.” She said very matter of fact. Diagnosed years ago after having sex with her first partner Kameshia has no form of healthcare, no support from the government and is in need of the necessary medications needed to live a somewhat healthy life. As she spoke I was inspired by her ability to have such a positive outlook and hold her head high with a smile. Her resilience despite her circumstances was heart warming. To end our conversation I asked her how she was able to remain in such a good place mentally, she looked to the sky and said “Because GOD is real.”