The Atlantic has a punch-to-the-gut story today about a Minneapolis woman who has collected hundreds of oral histories from homeless people. Margaret Miles takes and shares pictures of the homeless as well, and the reactions she gets to them can be startling:
Miles says that the typical response she hears when viewers look at a portrait is, “They don’t look homeless.”
“We need to ask ourselves what that means,” she says. “Somebody said, ‘Gosh, that actually looks like the guy who drives my kids’ school bus.’ Well in fact it could be, and he could not be making enough money, or could have had a health crisis, or a divorce, or some other reason, and he’s driving your kids and loving your kids and caring for your kids during his day job, and then having to sleep at night in a shelter.”
One thing she learned as the project progressed was how having photographs of ourselves and our families is a privilege that many don’t have. “If I think of myself, I have hundreds of pictures of my child, starting with his birth,” she told me. But she found that in some cases, families with small children told her, “We don’t have any pictures of our babies yet.”
Homeless people: they’re just like us, except they often don’t have smartphones or cameras with which to take ten thousand daily FB pictures of their babies. Take a moment to look at the pictures and listen to a few of the oral histories yourself at the Atlantic.
RELATED: Logan’s interview series with homeless people in New York City.
As a followup to Meaghan’s post about the American man who traveled to Canada and was struck by the existence of a “vast and comfortable middle class,” the Upshot talked to some middle-class Canadians who said they had plenty to worry about but thought they were better off than Americans:
“When you have a family to raise and you are middle class, you are on a treadmill,” said Deborrah Mustachi, a 52-year-old educational assistant for the Catholic school board in Markham, a Toronto suburb. “It’s very difficult to save when you have to live for today.”
Yet, Ms. Mustachi added, “I think people in the U.S. seem to struggle more.”
Canadians have little doubt that they face less financial stress about medical costs than Americans. Many also credit their labor unions for the size of their paychecks; union membership rates are higher in Canada. Canadians also know that the American housing bubble and bust were more severe than their version.
“We got to keep our houses,” said Gregory Thomas, 39, an actor and house painter who lives with his wife and two young children in Toronto. “As an outsider, it seems like the aspirational section of the middle class — those who are constantly trying to get a little bit higher — they really got decimated in the States.”
And I can’t get over this kicker:
Or as Mr. Thomas said, Americans “may get more on their plate when they go to Denny’s, but they don’t have more when they go home.”
Photo: Alex Indigo
While everyone agreed in principle that it is generally not desirable to judge people based on their appearance, we diverged on whether judging people based on apparent wealth is as bad as judging them based on, say, race.