Eyes of the Homeless Reveal Stories of Heartache, Hope

It's easy to walk past the homeless, to disregard the guy lying on the street or ignore the woman standing at an intersection holding a handwritten sign with a plea for help. It's harder to look away when you've seen their eyes.

13 photos
A mentally disabled woman stares at a camera as a homeless drug addict, who said his name was April Jane, sits on a sidewalk asking for money, Thursday, Nov. 2, 2017, in downtown Los Angeles. The latest nationwide homeless count shows that 4 of every 10 people living on the street are severely mentally ill or have a serious drug addiction. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
James Harris, 54, poses for a photo Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2017, in Los Angeles. Harris has had AIDS for 30 years, he said. When medication stopped working, he got depressed and was evicted. Now he feels like an outcast, vulnerable and struggling to survive. He's hoping that as a veteran he can get permanent housing, though he missed an earlier opportunity because a stint in a shelter disqualified him from being considered chronically homeless.
Moi Williams, 59, poses for a photo Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017, in Los Angeles. Williams, who has been homeless for four years, said he is comfortable sleeping on the street. "I'm not bothering nobody. I'm not being bothered." He said he's been on the streets three or four years. He had a job, but "it just got away," he said. He figured he'd find another, but it never came along. "I'm not fighting, like I used to," he said. "When I was younger, before I got a job, I used to fight a lot." Now he is trying to beat drugs and alcohol.
Tammy Stephen, 54, poses for a photo Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2017, in Seattle. Stephen lives in Camp Second Chance, a city-sanctioned homeless encampment in Seattle. "Housing here is out of control. That's why we have so many people on the street," she said. "There's nowhere for them to go."
Jorge Ortega, 40, poses for a photo Thursday, Oct. 5, 2017, in Los Angeles. Ortega said has been living on the street for more than 10 years after losing his job at the Los Angeles International Airport. Ortega said he has a 14-year-old son living in Washington. His son doesn't know Ortega is homeless, sleeping on a sidewalk of Skid Row.
Alicia Adara, 33, poses for a photo Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2017, in Seattle. Adara said she ended up on the street after losing a custody fight for her two children with her ex-husband. "I don't do shelters. I feel like I'm in jail," she said. "I've been like basically a prisoner all my life. I need to do this. I need to be out here. It's freedom."
Bennie Sayee Koffa, 66, poses for a photo at Camp Second Chance, a city-sanctioned homeless camp, Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2017, in Seattle. Koffa said he came to the U.S. in 1990 and never returned as a civil war raged for years in Liberia. He has lived in Canada and sought refugee status in the U.S. He ended up homeless and living on the streets of Seattle after splitting up with his wife a year ago, he said. His goal is to continue studying the Bible to become an ordained minister. He wants to help the poor. "I would love to get out (of here)," he said. "I understand this is a journey."
John Ruiz, 9, poses for a photo in front of the RV where he lives with his family on Monday, Oct. 23, 2017, in Mountain View, Calif. His parents and four siblings moved into the camper after they could no longer afford the rent in an apartment. John dreams of his family having a successful life together and maybe ending up in mansion - a home that might have swimming pool and backyard. Or at least one big enough to have his own room. "I want to have a happy life," he said.
Barry Warren, 52, poses for a photo Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2017, in Seattle. Warren says he has been homeless his entire adult life. After about 20 years without a home in California, he moved to Seattle, where he says the benefits are better and life on the street is safer.
Dolores Epps, 41, poses for a photo Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017, in Los Angeles. Epps, a mother of two children who has been homeless for five years, once had a job at a salon and still makes money cutting hair. "I don't touch everybody, only the people that are clean," Epps said. "All these dope fiends are gonna keep looking like a dope fiend. You're not my problem. But if you're a clean person and you just want to get a little bit extra sassy or as a man look a little more handsome, then yeah." Her mother has custody of her 15-year-old daughter and 9-year-old son.
Harrison Perkins, 31, poses for a photo Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2017, in Seattle. Perkins said he and his fiancee ended up on the street about two months ago after she accidentally burned down her mother's kitchen. Perkins, a recovering drug addict, wants to go back to Cleveland, Ohio, where his family lives. "Drugs are offered to me more than a place to live," he said. "Even in my worst drug addiction days, I always kept a roof over my head. ... We literally have nothing. This is what we've got. It's not worth it."
Bernadette Ortiz, 39, poses for a photo Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2017, in San Jose, Calif. Ortiz recently gave a birth to her fifth child. She and her fiance were living in a tent when she found out she was pregnant. The couple lives in a temporary shelter at a local church until their move to a studio apartment. "I don't want to live in a tent ever again," said Ortiz.
Robert Irwin, 72, poses for a photo at Camp Second Chance, a city-sanctioned homeless encampment, Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2017, in Seattle. He becomes emotional discussing family and said it "kind of gets me down." Irwin said he is planning a trip to Michigan to see his older sister. "I have my own SUV, Chevy Trailblazer. I want to go in March. It will be my last trip."
Copyright AP - Associated Press
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