The 19th century Scottish born Canadian poet Alexander Maclachlan often wrote of the homesickness of Scottish immigrants to Canada. In one poem, titled ‘The Snow-Storm’, he said:
“Once he was rich, but got poorer, poorer,
As hardship on hardship ‘gainst him were pressed.”
The phrase “hardship on hardship” describes well the lives of many people experiencing homelessness right now. You may have no toilet paper, but they, often, have no toilets.
You may have to stay home, but they are homeless. You may have to wait in line for groceries, but they, often, go days with nothing to eat. You may have to wash your hands a lot, but they, often, can't even shower. You may have to, temporarily stay home from your job, but they are jobless, and, often, unemployable.
“We’re in this together!” we are told, but they are, often, forgotten. “Practice social distancing!” we are told, but they are, often, crammed into crowded shelters.
Pastor Julie Kissick, co-founder of Streets Alive Mission, in Lethbridge, Alberta, says, “The homeless, although living a tough life, have been truly lost during this time. They don’t have much, but what they had was shaken.”
For the past five years I have been photographing people experiencing homelessness in cities throughout the world, such as Washington, New York, Brisbane, and Toronto. At the same time that I do this, my dad, Tim den Bok, who accompanies me on these trips, interviews them.
With these photographs and stories, we are trying to humanize people experiencing homelessness and shine a spotlight on their plight.
In this article I will introduce you to six wonderful people experiencing homelessness—Joshua, Larry, Ron, Kathryn, Selina, and Lucy—whom my dad and I have had the privilege of meeting. From them you will hear, first-hand, about the hardships faced by people experiencing homelessness, especially during COVID-19.
I also suggest three ways you can help such people during the pandemic, as well as three things you can do to help make the lives of these people more bearable—even after COVID-19.
Photo Credit: ©Leah den Bok