To many, Bend, Oregon seems so picturesque and the ideal place to live and call home. I agree it is! However it isn’t free from a very concerning issue called homelessness.
Homelessness describes the condition of people without a regular dwelling. People who are homeless are most often unable to acquire and maintain regular, safe, and adequate housing, or lack “fixed, regular, and adequate night-time residence.”
Over the years Bend has witnessed more and more streets corners becoming home to local homeless. Yes, homelessness is REAL in Bend and it seems a by – product of an imperfect society. Every homeless person has an unique ‘story’ – a story of sadness, abuse, addiction, crime etc… and now these people have become lost in our society.
I don’t have the answer to eradicate homelessness on a local or national level but I do know we can’t fix others, they have to fix themselves and they do have choices that they can make. We as individuals and as a community can help, share and make life a little easier and perhaps brighter for those who are in need. This is exactly what shone through when I got the opportunity to visit a number of the homeless camps around Bend, along side some volunteers from the local organization called COVA . Bend is a special place because it has many caring people who want to help make a difference in the lives of the homeless. It has a network of resources that are readily available to those who are in need. Most people are unaware of the approximately 13 homeless camps that are scattered in and around the city limits.
I have been thinking long and hard since visiting the homeless camps and meeting those who live there. It was very sad to see how little they had, the conditions they are enduring and the emptiness they must be feeling. I don’t know why but I brought with me a sign which you will see in a couple of the photos, it says – ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE. It ended up being so appropriate as this is most likely what is missing in all their lives – LOVE!
For a long time I have had a desire to be able to look deeper into the homeless situation in Bend and capture what I see through my lens so others can get a better sense of what it means to be homeless and live in a camp. I am thankful for the people who allowed me to capture their place they call home and remind me how fortunate I am to not be homeless.
I hope the photos I am sharing will impact you in some way, whether it makes you more compassionate when you see someone homeless and not judge them so quickly or maybe it will make you more grateful of your own situation. Even better it might inspire you to give back in our community in some special way.
Words are powerful but photographs can touch your soul… I hope these touch yours.
PS, next time you are out driving and pull up to a corner and someone is sitting there homeless, don’t reach for money or look away instead give them a smile and look into their eyes. I promise you it will be more effective and touch their heart and your too.