Group analysis also revealed that photographers were at various stages of the recovery process and continued to struggle with old challenges as well as new ones. Continued challenges included loss, stigma, and loneliness. Additionally, photographers expressed anxiety over “what’s next?”, concern for friends still on the street, and the need to balance that concern with the need to distance themselves from their former lives.
Loss featured frequently in group discussions. Indeed, the group has lost multiple members since the beginning of the project. However, often, loss was categorized as more figurative. For instance, photographers who came from more affluent backgrounds frequently lamented the loss of their former lives.
Liberation of the Angel…
"I was on my way to work, and I saw this beautiful, broken creature on the side of the road and I was like "Oh my gosh." Went into work...and that's when I got a phone call from one of the housing specialists that said that Lucie had passed away. And the first thing that came to my mind was the bird. That was the sign, that was God telling me that...she's in a better place. And I miss her. This was my sign from the universe that she was ok and that she was resting in peace."
Maintaining healthy boundaries between new lives in housing and former lives on the street was a constant struggle. Photographers often felt a responsibility to help old friends who had helped them in the past. This concern for their friends put them in situations in which loyalty to friends threatened to pull them back into harmful lifestyles and/or to upset their relationship with landlords.
The photographer explained that she missed her friends who are still homeless as they were her family when she was homeless herself. She still visits them and wants the best for them but struggles to maintain a healthy distance as she recovers.
Frequently, photographers discussed feeling stigmatized by landlords, community members, and public safety officials. Although housing provided a buffer against this stigma, they continued to struggle with the effects of stigma from their time on the streets. Many photographers continued to refer to themselves as “homeless” and at times, echoed common negative public sentiments.
Picture of a Cop Car
Cops. Well, when I’m homeless, cops treat me different. Kind of like a FRO. When I have a home, cops treat me more like a friend. Same Authority Figure, different outcome. Recently, I was on the North Shore and ran into problems and went to the police. The first thing they asked me is where I lived – when I told them Kakaako (Next Step), they caught attitude and detested my character.
Although they were grateful for housing, photographers felt disconnected from others. Maintaining a distance from former friends and family on the street sometimes meant being lonely.
The photographer explained that she missed her friends who are still experiencing homelessness. She still visits them and wants the best for them.
Photographers were concerned about their futures and the future of the program. At the time of the PhotoVOICE project, many photographers felt that they had finally turned a corner in their recovery and were making significant progress toward their goals. Not knowing how long the program would last (at the time funding had not been renewed) was incredibly distressing. Despite the fact that Housing First is labeled “Permanent Supportive Housing,” photographers emphasized that the program was only “permanent” so long as it was funded. This lack of a sense of permanence heightened anxiety and hindered progress toward their goals.