The D.C. photo blog putting a face on homelessness


American street paper Street Sense recently reported on an engaging and empowering photo blog putting a name and face to the people experiencing homelessness in Washington D.C.

“It saddens my heart too to see people passed by in the street. People won’t even acknowledge a homeless individual or a homeless veteran – or even a veteran seeking assistance. Homeless people, and homeless veterans, are people too. They don’t need a hand out, but a hand up.”

Street Sense vendor and contributor Robert is now a recognisable face on the streets of Washington D.C. where he sells the street paper, but it wasn’t always that way for the formerly homeless veteran.

He knows what it’s like to be in need and to feel ignored and invisible, which is why he was happy to be featured on Person First Project, an engaging photo blog  that aims to break down barriers between people experiencing homelessness and those who pass by them every day.

Shiza Farid, Robyn Russell and Julie Schwartz created the Person First Project in December 2014 as a way of reminding people there is a person behind every unique experience of homelessness and poverty.

The trio partnered up with the National Coalition for the Homeless to connect with people willing to share their own experiences of homelessness. The project highlights these stories via Facebook and Instagram, including a chat with Street Sense vendor Chon, who explains how selling a street paper is helping him build a better future.

“When you stop and talk to people who are experiencing homelessness, you hear that they’re really just like everybody else. They are moms. They are dads. They are daughters. They are sons,” said co-founder Robyn Russell. “If we could share this with other people, I think it could be really powerful because there are a lot of misconceptions around homelessness.”

Russell says the positive comments left on each of their Facebook posts is testament to the power of storytelling as an advocacy tool, and that first-person stories can help change perceptions and open people eyes in a way that a fact sheet full of stats, facts and figures cannot.

Regarding the public who pass by people experiencing homelessness every day, she added: “It’s not that people don’t care. I think they do care and I think they don’t know what to do. That’s how we felt.

“We hope our project can open their eyes and help them feel like maybe they can stop and talk to

This post is based on an article by Jennifer Ortiz originally published in Street Sense.