About Outlines of Chicago
Tourists, business people, students, and pedestrians pass people experiencing homelessness on the streets as if they're invisible - they walk right past, look away, and don't acknowledge that they're humans with stories too. It's as if people on the streets are just outlines of matter on the ground rather than human beings.
"Outlines of Chicago" is meant to highlight the stories of those experiencing homelessness that I talked with on Chicago's vibrant streets and give their "outlines" a voice. The purpose of this project is to shatter the idea that homeless people are a type of "sub human" - when in reality, they have wants, dreams, fears, feelings, and stories just like everyone else no matter their
The stories are from people experiencing homelessness in Chicago that I personally talked with on the streets. Their stories have been lightly edited for clarity and conciseness, and pictures were taken in the area that they were located. All names have been changed to respect their anonymity.
I became interested in homelessness after coming to Chicago for college. Everyday as I walked to my classes I passed someone experiencing homelessness. Previously I had built up stereotypes about these people from what society constructs of them - lazy, alcoholic, drug addicts. To be honest, I was scared to approach people on the streets because of these stereotypes I developed of them in my head. At that point, I had never talked to someone experiencing homelessness because I thought they would hurt me or try to steal from me. I had let my biases and society's constructs dictate how I saw these people as less than me. During my first semester in Chicago, I passed a woman who I saw everyday on the street at the same spot. One day while I was waiting to cross the street, she reached her hand out to me and asked me if I had any food. I instantly clammed up, became on edge, and took a step back. I politely told her no and cross the street. Immediately following this I felt the worst guilt and shame I had ever felt. I treated her like she was some type of monster to stay far away from. When I looked back at her across the street, I saw that she had her head hanging low and I could hear her asking other people for food - they did the similar things like I did: take a step back, look the other way, walk in the opposite direction to avoid her, etc.
Despite knowing I'd be late to class if I turned back, I crossed the street again walking towards her and walked into Water Tower Place.