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Seeking shelter

A look at the unhoused and the challenges they face in finding a place to call home

A person sleeps on a pedestrian bridge over West 18th Avenue on a rainy day in Eugene, Ore., on the same day that Oregon Governor Tina Kotek announced plans to tackle the issue of homelessness in the state.

Decades ago I realized the rapidly changing issues of homelessness, and my interest in accurately documenting what was happening, required a different approach.

I decided to make the issues of homelessness a photo beat. I began dropping by homeless camps, getting to know the people living in them and learning more about the various programs that sprung up in the community to address the challenge of helping people find a place to live.

I confess that I dislike the word “homeless.” The English language does not have a word that captures all that lays beneath the surface of not having a place to live. Rents can be expensive and pay low. Public assistance is limited and can be challenging to navigate. Human frailty, life challenges and addictive behaviors often add to the burden people must overcome. The people facing this spectrum of challenges can be easily stereotyped.

For all of those reasons, I decided to call the ongoing project “Seeking shelter.” I will continue to document this public health crisis as long as I am able. I am grateful for the trust of the subjects who agree to tell their stories and be photographed. I hope their bravery will lead to a better understanding of the challenges they face and shine a spotlight on the tireless work of the community to provide shelter for all who seek it.

A link to one of the projects as it appeared in The Register-Guard here: https://bit.ly/3GLc8k9

Select project Photographs

Chris Pietsch is the director of photography for Gannett Newspapers in Oregon, The Register-Guard in Eugene and the Statesman Journal in Salem.

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