Photographers' Blog

Homeless in Greece

Athens, Greece

By Yannis Behrakis

Marialena’s tears ran down her face onto the dirty mattress where she and her boyfriend Dimitrios have been sleeping day in, day out, for over a year, under a bridge in one of Athens’ most run-down neighborhoods.

Marialena, 42, is a homeless AIDS patient and a former drug addict on a Methadone rehab program.

Athens is full of sad stories like hers – of once ordinary people with a job and family who have found themselves on the fringes of society after the country’s economic crisis began in 2009. Up until a few years ago, homelessness was relatively unusual in this country of close family ties, but nowadays stories like Marialena’s are increasingly common.

As Dimitrios tries – without any gloves – to clean the bleeding gashes on her arm, a rat makes its way behind their mattress.

Dimitrios, 51 – who is divorced with a 21-year-old daughter and a 20-year-old son – became homeless three years ago when he lost his job as a dancer in a Greek folk-dancing troupe.

More soup for more poor

Buenos Aires, Argentina

By Enrique Marcarian

I first photographed a soup kitchen in 1998, in a parish in one of Buenos Aires’ famous “villas miserias,” which literally means “misery towns” in reference to its large slums. At that time I only saw children taking their daily rations and often smiling at my camera.

I assumed that the sheer number of children depending on soup kitchens was just circumstantial, and the next governments would improve the situation for them and there would be more being fed at home instead of by charities.

I was wrong. A couple of years later the country entered into one of its worst economic crises. Suddenly I no longer saw just more children in the soup kitchens but I saw them even more malnourished, to the extent that they were at risk of starvation. In fact, I came to find out that some children did die, although official versions didn’t say it was starvation.

Coffin, sweet coffin

By Damir Sagolj

Just around the corner from where Blade Runner met Bruce Lee, in the neighborhood where Hong Kong’s millions are made, 24 people live their lives in coffins. They call it home – but they’re only 6 by 3 feet wooden boxes, nicknamed coffins and packed into a single room to make more money for the rich.

SLIDESHOW: LIVING IN COFFINS

In a crazy chase for more dollars, landlords in the island city are building something unthinkable in the rest of the world – a beehive for people collected from the margins of society. Math is a rat; pitiless and brutal. Twenty-four times 1450 Hong Kong dollars a month is more than anyone would pay for this just over 500 square feet room.

Mister T, the only inhabitant of these coffin homes who did not want his picture taken (“I have a grown daughter, she would be ashamed”) calls it the bottom. After spending time in the States, with a few years behind bars, this is as low as it gets for him. He spits through broken front teeth, like the routine of a street gangster, and continues bitching about the life – “better than nothing, but not as good as the real life.”

Learning the lessons of the slums

By Danish Siddiqui

If you are flying into Mumbai, the first thing you’ll see from mid-air are the visually beautiful rows of slums. I have always treated the slums and their inhabitants with respect.

GALLERY: MUMBAI’S SLUM LIFE

Every metropolitan city (at least in India) has slums, as more and more people travel to the cities for better opportunities. Unfortunately, not everyone is fortunate enough to live in a planned neighborhood.

Mumbai has a number of slums, the largest of which is called Dharavi. In fact, it is also one of Asia’s largest slums. I started photographing the slums of Dharavi when I moved to Mumbai two years ago. I tried to explore the slums block by block, lane by lane. I still haven’t finished half of it.

Fishing to survive in Cité Soleil

By Swoan Parker

“I’m living in a bad place and didn’t want to get involved in any bad things”, is what 27-year-old Wilkens Sinar told me. His neighborhood, Cité Soleil, is one of the poorest and most dangerous slums in Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and just 500 miles from the United States. This densely populated area located near the capital of Port-au-Prince houses families who mostly migrated from the countryside in search of work. Unable to afford the rents in most of the capital, they have no other choice but to settle here where powerful gangs operate rampantly.

As I walked through the endless maze of shanty homes built of pieces of concrete or junk metal latched together, the smell of raw sewage permeated the air. I found myself at the seacoast where small boats were docked and fishermen were either setting off or returning with their catch of mostly small crabs and fish.

I watched the activity for a while before striking up a conversation with Wilkens, and his friends and fellow fishermen Dieufait Louis-Pierre, 27, and Mackenson Dollus, 28. It was 6 am and the three were just returning from collecting their crab baskets that they had set out the night before.

Rose’s Divine Love

By Nacho Doce

Deep inside the massive favela called Brasilandia, one of the biggest of Sao Paulo’s wretched slums, lives Rose with her husband Ivo and their three disabled children. I first learned of Rose’s predicament while doing a feature story about the AACD clinic for disabled children. I immediately arranged for us to meet for the first time in their slum at 5 am, the time they leave for a weekly session of physical therapy.

Their alley didn’t appear on my taxi’s GPS, and we got lost in the dark maze. I had to wait for a more decent hour closer to 5 am before phoning them for help. With their directions, I finally reached the top of a steep alley, and found myself practically inside a “boca de fumo,” best described as an open air crack den.  It wasn’t until Ivo quickly rushed to meet me and spoke to one of the addicts, that I heard the words, “Taxi free to pass.” I was relieved.

We hiked downhill through two steep alleys to reach their house. In the living room, their three mute children, Samille, 9, Dhones, 7, and Izabely, 6, were sitting in a row on a red felt-covered sofa, in front of a wall covered with green and brown mold. The scene struck me as both sad and beautiful.

An American homeless family

By Lucy Nicholson

On her second day of camping near the coast north of Los Angeles, Benita Guzman lit a match, threw it on a pile of logs, and poured gasoline on top. As flames engulfed her hand and foot, her niece, Angelica Cervantes, rushed to throw sand over her. Benita thrust her burning hand into a pile of mud, and took a deep breath.

Camping’s not easy. It’s a whole lot rougher when you’re a pair of homeless single mothers trying to keep seven children fed, clothed, washed and in school.

Guzman, 40, and two of her children are living outdoors with Cervantes, 36, and five of her children. The two banded together in an effort to keep the children together as a family, and not taken away and separated in foster homes.

The hunt for treasure

By Mariana Bazo

On my numerous trips around the outskirts of Lima I’ve long been struck by the sight of elderly women combing garbage dumps and lugging huge bags filled with recyclable items. I’ve photographed several of them and while talking to them I always get the same story – they pick up bottles, paper and cans they can sell later, and that little money allows them to survive. Some of the women are abandoned and have no relatives, but others prefer to live on their own means rather than depending on handouts. It’s common to hear them say that this is the only job they can get at their age. I often notice a certain glimpse of happiness when they talk about their hard-earned independence.

Peru’s national statistics bureau has published figures that older adults who don’t have retirement plans are forced to develop strategies for survival, to avoid being economically dependent and socially vulnerable, and these garbage pickers fit exactly that description. Many poor elderly women are excluded from social services and have never been in the formal workplace. Many are Andean migrants without the same education opportunities as men, to the extent where many are illiterate.

This describes my most recent subject, Victoria Ochante, 65. Victoria left her home in the highland town of Ayacucho 30 years ago to escape the violence of the Shining Path guerrilla movement. Illiterate herself, she’s been living in Lima slums since then, and with six children has managed to maintain her family in the humble shanty she built of recycled material.

Going hungry

By Bobby Ranoco

When I saw a headline in a local paper that the number of Filipino families experiencing hunger had risen from 4.3 million to 4.5 million, I called my sources in the slum district of Baseco community in Tondo, Manila.

I was told there would be a feeding program for children sponsored by South Korean missionaries later in the afternoon. When I arrived, I was surprised to see hundreds of children gathered outside the missionary house waiting for a free meal.

I have covered this kind of subject several times but this time I was so emotional seeing lots of hungry children, most of them barefoot and dirty. When a man distributing food stubs arrived, all the children rushed and scrambled to get one. I noticed a girl carrying her brother on her back amid the scramble.

Hope Gardens

By Lucy Nicholson

Lilly Earp changes the diaper on her 5-week-old baby sister Emily with the confidence another child would have cradling a doll. She’s only 8, but she already shows the street smarts of an older child as she helps her mother. It helps to be resourceful when you’re homeless.

Her mother, Doreen Earp, 38, who is originally from Germany, and her three children ended up on the street after her relationship with Emily’s father fell apart. They stayed in a hotel for a month, then with people from their church and eventually ended up with no roof over their heads.

Today, they’re lucky to be among the 150 or so other homeless women and children living at Hope Gardens on the outskirts of LA. It’s a place where those at the end of the line are given a life line. The shelter for families is an oasis compared to where most of LA’s massive street population lives on a grim patch of downtown’s Skid Row. While homeless services are concentrated downtown, it’s no place for a child.

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