This photo of Cornelius & April from my ongoing series “Hope vs Hope, Vignettes of the Unsheltered”, aka “Portraits of Dignity” was featured and trending on the National Geographic website.
David Y. Lee, Producer, Nat Geo Your Shot added a lengthy and humbling comment too. It is so rewarding when viewers/editors/shot producers, etc. connect with the portraits of the guests at Loaves & Fishes.
“Fantastic job presenting your portrait — I love how you included two frames, making this feel like a film negative contact sheet. I love the difference in expression between the two frames, which implies a range of emotions you documented — and that this moment captured your attention. Then I really love your detailed caption, which further shares Cornelius and April’s story. Together your photos and caption deliver a powerful story. Well done Douglas. Very well done.” David Y. Lee, Producer, Nat Geo Your Shot
Although Cornelius & April’s story and portrait were on this blog a few months back I’m adding their story here too.
Cornelius and April live in an early model Cadillac on the streets of Sacramento.
California natives, they met on the street four years ago. Sharing their childhood memories and experiences brought them closer together. Their struggles are very similar to each other. Cornelius and April both had to drop out school to help take care of family.
“His Mom was shot six times by his Dad, so he really had it hard growing up and trying to go through school, his sister raised him,” April says.
“I just wanted a good job, but my teachers would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up and when you tell them something and they’d say, ‘No, well, you should think along the lines of being the man who comes and picks up the trash for a job.’ I didn’t know anything about racism until then. They were always telling us things to put us down. I knew the last week of the month we never had any food, I filled out many job applications, but I could never get a job. So, I started hustling, selling drugs and all different types of stuff. It was tough seeking any kind of legal job,” Cornelius says.
April tells me Cornelius spent most of his adult life, 30 years, in the penitentiary system.
A problem many homeless living in their cars face is having their cars towed due to out of date registration, tickets or other violations.
“It’s against the law to sleep in your car,” Cornelius says. “Mostly the police want you to park your car on private property, but if we had private property that would be like somebody’s house,” April says.
April tells me she is retired, and both receive some assistance every month, but it’s just not enough to afford an apartment in Sacramento.
“We have no references for renting and the waiting lists are so long too,” April says.
April and Cornelius face each day with optimism and enjoy the simple things, like sharing candy they loved in their childhood, and they tell me that It’s nice to know they have somewhere to go in the morning when they wake up, like Friendship Park.
“It’s nice not being hungry and being able to do laundry. It’s a safe place and we can meditate there too,” April says.