Two weeks ago, my wife and I visited Portland, Oregon. I had not been in Portland since photographing there two years early, while working on “Homeless in a Land of Plenty.” There seem to be hundreds more unsheltered persons sleeping Portland’s sidewalks and its open open spaces than there were just two years ago.
According to statistics available from the City of Portland, an average of 2,000 people sleep unsheltered each night. Sadly, homelessness is on the rise, not just in Portland, but across the country.
And why is homelessness on the rise? The top 20 percent of housing consumers in America make an average of $155,000 a year. Collectively, 19 percent of this group’s income goes toward housing. In stark contrast, the bottom 20 percent make an average of just over $10,000 a year, and spend on average 89 percent of their income on housing. On any given night, more than 550,000 American experience homelessness. Among comfortably housed Americans, there are those who struggle with alcoholism, substance use issues, mental health challenges, and/or who have made a poor decision or two in their lives.
These afflictions and challenges are not the cause of homelessness. Homelessness will remain one of our most pressing social problems, unless and until we make significant and sustained investments in affordable housing.
In the fall of 2016, I began what became a five-year project to create a comprehensive photographic documentary of our nation’s homeless crisis. In more than seventy cities across the nation, I met with persons experiencing homelessness, and with service providers. This work has now come together in a 224-page, hardcover photography book titled, “Homeless in a Land of Plenty.”
With your help, I now seek through GoFundMe to raise funds to publish this book, with the goals of increasing awareness of the current homeless crisis, and of helping to support several non-profit organizations advocating for and serving persons experiencing homelessness. Net proceeds from the publication of “Homeless in a Land of Plenty” will be donated to non-profit organizations aiding the homeless. For each $50 contributed, which is equal to the retail price of the book including domestic shipping, you will receive a copy of the “Homeless in a Land of Plenty.” Assuming I am able to place a print order by the end of January, allowing for current supply chain issues, copies should be available by early to mid summer of 2022.
Though the economic crisis of the 1930s is nearly a century behind us, for many Americans without stable housing these are greatly depressing times. And so, wanting the images in this project to resonate with and echo an earlier time, I photographed exclusively with black and white film. While some of the images in this project show the living conditions of the unhoused, the majority are street portraits. Through these images, I seek to enable the viewer to make a human connection with persons experiencing homelessness.
Below you will find a sample of images from the book, along with an excerpt from the introduction. I thank you in advance for helping with the publication of “Homeless in a Land of Plenty.”
Sincerely, Mark Schumann Santa Fe, New Mexico December, 2021 firstname.lastname@example.org