project hello
September 21, 2004 6:22 PM   Subscribe

project hello
"... To give homeless individuals a name, and in the process, encourage others to treat them with dignity, respect, and compassion. "
posted by specialk420 (9 comments total)
I was sitting in a review meeting the other day - we were judging if cases under review met diagnostic criteria for study inclusion - and our interviewer mentioned that she'd had to delay the interviewer because the patient, who was homeless, was getting married that day.

One of the other reviewers scoffed. I said, "Homeless people need love too!" and she replied "Love, sure - but do they need to get MARRIED? It's not like they need the TAX BREAK!"

My first instinct when I read the above was to say "Homeless individuals already HAVE names," because I found the wording patronizing. But I agree with the sentiment.
posted by ikkyu2 at 7:00 PM on September 21, 2004

I like the project idea, but I'm a bit uncomfortable with the lack of a firm commitment to donate all of the profits to reputable charitable organizations / hospitals. The only statements I saw expressed a "hope" that donations could be arranged. I hope I'm being unduly cynical...?
posted by stonerose at 7:03 PM on September 21, 2004

I like it a lot, but i'm with stonerose--will the money go to Partnership for the Homeless? an org. that provides housing? support services? etc? I want to get the book when it comes out, but it's important to know how the people featured, or people like them, will benefit. Otherwise they're just being used, really.
posted by amberglow at 8:02 PM on September 21, 2004

Often I find myself wishing that the homeless would treat me with dignity, respect, and compassion. Here in the San Francisco Bay area it's pretty much impossible to walk two blocks without someone asking you for money. I really have no desire to talk to random people on the street, homeless or otherwise. I suppose I can just ignore them, but that would be rude. So I'm just stuck feeling uncomfortable and resentful for the fact that my thoughts of the moment were interrupted. Is it too much to ask for the chance to walk down the street in peace?
posted by epimorph at 8:05 PM on September 21, 2004

Say "sorry" and walk on. It's not hard, and it acknowledges their existence.
posted by amberglow at 8:11 PM on September 21, 2004

The first axiom of homelessness that needs to utterly, completely destroyed is that "homeless people want to be like me!"

There are many types of homeless people. For the most part, those that are homeless *families* DO want to be and live like you. But they are the minority.
The great majority are *not* in families, however, and they get a lot more complex. Many are strongly claustraphobic, and cannot abide sleeping indoors. This is above and beyond pathological mental illness. They are not deranged, they just don't want to sleep indoors for any extended period.

There are many who will work twice as hard to *not* have a job as they would at a paying job. They abhor employment, but would gladly slave away for free for an NGO they respect. Many others reject "organized" homeless care as next to institutionalization--again, not something to be taken voluntarily. Shelters, to them, are indistiguishable from minimum security prisons.

There are a number that are severely mentally ill, and there are addicts of both drugs and alcohol. But most fit in the near normal range, and use drugs and alcohol in the same recreational manner as does everyone else.

So what is the real problem of "homelessness"? First of all, though there are vast tracts of open land in the US, there is almost no place a person can just roll out a sleeping bag and sleep--legally, within walking distance of water, food, and the other niceties of towns and cities. Homeless people don't really want to be put up in crime-ridden shantytowns, either. They prefer just having a few friends around them.

They are tormented both by those who are dreadfully afraid of them and want them driven away, and those who want to control them, and "make them just like me."
posted by kablam at 8:26 PM on September 21, 2004

kablam: you speak rightly.

Being homeless starts out as temporary, then quickly becomes an unimaginable emotional outrage. This gets in the way of coping to improve the situation, and the situation compounds itself.

Its a vulnerable situation, and they know it. Fear is a reasonable emotion.

Its easy to become self-loathing, then only anti-social attitude can get past that. Survival therefore may depend on anti-social attitude. Later, survival itself may become a precious source of pride.
posted by Goofyy at 3:25 AM on September 22, 2004

I really like this idea. However, the photo gallery format makes the homeless portraits appear curiously like criminal mug-shots. That is the first association I conjured. Therefore, If Project Hello wants to raise compassion and awareness for homeless individuals, I would suggest they completely change the posing requirements and positions.
posted by naxosaxur at 9:08 AM on September 22, 2004

I got a nice email about another project, which seems better:

There is a guy here in NYC, Jim Flynn, who did something related, but (IMHO) more substantial than Project Hello.

He took his spare time from teaching highschool, and conducted recorded interviews over a period of about three years of 75 homeless people living on the streets of the East Village.  He dictated their stories, added some context, and printed up a batch of paperback books.  He gives (If they're broke) or sells them to homeless guys he knows, and they act as vendors.  He's broken even on the project so far.  He's not a real "non-profit" either, due to costs, but any profit generated so far has gone to the guys selling the books, he doesn't make judgements as to what they use it for.

The book is called "Stranger to the System".

His site is

I don't want to be derisive re: Project Hello, but it seems it would turn the unknowns into icons, not people.
posted by amberglow at 2:46 PM on September 22, 2004

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