A Week in the Life
of a
Homeless Outreach Worker

MARCH 1999, I participated in a five-day photojournalism workshop, entitled Truth with a Camera, hosted by Dr. Vme Smith at Tidewater Community College. My project was trying to photograph the activities of a homeless outreach worker. I was fortunate enough to have a coworker who was willing to let me tag along for a week. Sarah Paige Fuller has worked with the homeless for about eight years. Presently she is responsible for offering assistance to our city's homeless population. She is a walking resource for what is available to the approximately 350 homeless people she tries to assist annually. She helps them get mental health, medical and dental services, jobs, shelter, food, and offers assistance in seeing that they get whatever financial benefits they are entitled to. She also collects clothing, attends the various meetings that affect the homeless, writes grants, and if that isn't enough, attends school fulltime and is a few weeks off from completing her masters degree in social work. For the five days of the workshop we visited the local shelters and food kitchens, and trolled the streets and the two downtown libraries (hey, in the wintertime it's cold and the libraries are a warm place to hangout). Sarah Paige has scheduled office hours at The Union Mission and The Salvation Army. In addition to these duties she is called on by other workers in the city who look to her for advice when they have a homeless client. The five days I spent with her was a real eye opener, and my view of who and why people are homeless has changed forever.

At the Library

AFTER breakfast at the shelter all the folks must hit the streets (the only exception is when the temperatures are so low that there is a health risk). Where does a homeless person spend the day? When it's cold out, many go to the local libraries. Hey, it's warm inside, quiet, and there's lots of good stuff to read.

Reaching Out: Going to Where the Folks Are

IT'S getting cold out with the first sprinklings of snow. Where is this gentleman? Out in the woods? Not exactly. This campsite is just fifty feet or so from a major highway coming into downtown Norfolk. If you look in the upper right corner of the picture below and to the right, you can see a large building.

Paper Work and Meetings

SOMETIMES working with the homeless folks seemed to interfere with the paper work and the meetings.


SOMETIMES all it takes is a cigarette and a few kind words. It would seem that most homeless people are so use to having nothing and to surviving on the bare minimum, that most of them are extremely grateful for any courtisies or kindnesses that they receive. Please note: Sarah Paige is no longer a smoker.

What's Going on Here?

JUST looking at this gentleman you might think he's going through an interview for a mid-level manager's position. Not true. This person, who works everyday, is homeless and is living at The Union Mission until he can get back on his feet.

THE UNION MISSION has served the needs of the homeless in Norfolk since 1892. The Mission provides shelter, food, religious services, and and jobs. The Union Mission offers shelter for men, women, and families and has a hotel section with individual rooms.

The End of a Long Day....


AFTER following Sarah Paige around for a week have I come to any conclusions about the homeless? Why and how they became homeless? While recognizing and acknowling the obvious, that one week's casual observations with a limited number people doesn't provide for scientifically sound conclusions, I did come away with some thoughts and opinions.
Most homeless people don't wake up one morning and say, "Gosh, I think I'll be homeless." Though many do wake up one day and realize that they are. Often, they've gone from friend's to friend's, relatve's to relatiove's and finally find there is nowhere else to go. Many just fall on hard times, losing jobs and social support systems, and their lives spirla downward out of control.
A pretty large percentage of the homeless are mentally ill, many suffering severe psychotic illnesses that need medication taken consistantly with ongoing monitoring and psychiatric services. Once these people become homeless

Thanks to....

I WOULD like to thank all the folks and organizations who allowed me to photograph and hangout at their facilities: John Gray, Jim Tatum, and the staff at The Union Mission, XXXXX at St. Col, and Major XXX at The Salvation Army. Thanks to all of the homeless people who were so kind in allowing their pictures to be taken and who answered my questions. And, a special thanks to Sarah paige Fuller who tolerated my sticking a camera in her face for a week. Workshop.....funding PATH? NEST

A Little About the Workshop

THE CLIFTON C. EDOM Truth With a Camera workshop is the creation of Dr.Vme Smith of Tidewater Communtiy College and her mother, Vi Edom. Clifton Edom founded the internationally recognised, University of Missouri Photo Workshop almost fifty years ago
The workshop staff included: Jim Blair of National Geographic, Ynughi Kim of Contact Press Images, Eric Seals of The Detroit Free Press, and Alex Burrows of The Virginian-Pilot.

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