Moving in on the Homeless

by Steed Dropout
Oct. 27, 2015


'We’re just like you.' Photo by Ted Friedman.

They rolled up to People’s Park in two cars filled with clothing, which was scattered, each day, on the sidewalk alongside People’s Park.

The merry band of young off-the-road, fur-hatted itinerants made a monster mess with sleeping bags, cardboard, and assorted junk off-the-streets— across the street from the park.

Each day, they displayed a poster board, which referred to street theater, Ronald Reagan, and the 1985 Iran-Contras brouhaha.

Perhaps there was a backstory here.Only I never found out because they slipped out of Berkeley like lambs who arrived as Lions. Before I could interview them.

There was something off putting about them. I never gave them a chance.

This photographer can’t remember the last time he bothered to get to know the people he shoots.

So the photographer vowed to improve — if not as a photographer — then as a person.


Alice. Photo by Ted Friedman.

Identifying myself as a reporter, I asked Alice if she were homeless. She said yes. “it’s complicated,” she said, “a series of unfortunate events.”

I sensed that Alice was a man and resolved to ask her about it. I tried to endear myself by complementing Alice on her buns.

She smiled sadly. She was a sad gal who wouldn’t tell her story, even though I assured her, that if she had been discriminated against, there was plenty of support for her here.

I shoulda pressed on like the press.


Dale. Photo by Ted Friedman.

Dale had it all, before homelessness, losing his wife, home, and business.

He was raised in affluent Orinda, just over the hills from Berkeley. As a high school student, he came to the avenue on weekends to see the hippies and street kids. Now he’s a street kid, at 51.

Dale was a great source on a recent incident in People’s Park during which seven cop cars and two ambulances were dispatched.

Dale was a good source because the ambulances came for him.

A woman had been assaulted in the park and the assaulter had come after Dale, a would-be peacekeeper. The peacekeeper hopped on his bike to escape his pursuer. Then, pursued by the assaulter — who gave Dale’s bike a shove — he crashed into a street sign pole.

Scene of the crash. Photo by Ted Friedman.

According to a witnesses, there was a bloody scene as ambulances arrived.

Dale showed me the 42 stitches in his head from hitting the pole.

The stitches. Photo by Ted Friedman.

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