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StreetVIEW – FACES OF THE SIDEWALK A Lesson in Gratitude

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We are delighted to publish this social documentary photography project which authentically captures a homeless community in Vegas by our StreetVIEW columnist Laura Peischl.

Peischl returned to Vegas to tell the story of those liviing on the streets. Their openness in sharing their lives enabled her to get up close and visualise the social cost of a system valuing profit over human welfare – homelessness representing a tangible consequence of an ever increasing chasm beetween rich and poor. An unkind world and a system not designed to help them succeed has deeply scarred many of them. They feel cast out, unwanted, invisible, forgotten. Peischl expressed “the biggest gift is simply listening and giving them a warm hug or a handshake. That makes them feel seen, heard, and appreciated”. Along with Peischl’s text below, I have created a video with her images and chosen music, enjoy. (foreword by Joanne Carter)

 

As I write this, the old year is nearing its end while the new one lurks, like a shadow, around the  corner.

Like all of us, I am trying to come to terms with the good, but also the challenges the past year had in store for me. New years have the same fascination as the first blank page of a notebook; we make resolutions to work harder, eat healthier, exercise more, reach new goals, and new milestones. We are, after all, the creators of our story.

Personally, looking back at the ending year, I realize the most valuable lesson I learned was gratitude. Gratitude is just a word until one grasps its true essence. It’s only when one loses control of everything and becomes fully dependent on the generosity of others, when life comes to a hold with no plan B available, that one understands the deeply humbling meaning of this word.

Once understood, gratefulness becomes a legacy, a commitment to giving back into the universe. It’s like a purpose to lifting up others with love, dedication, and beyond all, humility.

Amongst the beautiful things the universe gifted me this past year, one of my favorites was meeting Sandra. She is the most generous lady who dedicated her life to making the lives of homeless people in Las Vegas a bit more bearable, by providing them with essential supplies, clothing and warm meals. Following all her activities on Facebook while in Europe, I knew that as soon as I got back to Vegas, I wanted to be part of all of this. I wanted nothing more than to lend a helping hand with whatever needed, and make a difference in people’s lives.

I also knew that I wanted to use my photographic skills to capture, document, and raise awareness for the ones less fortunate. For the women and men out there in the cold, unable to make new year’s resolutions, the ones with no plan B, the ones laying on the street, sleeping under the interstate bridge or standing at an intersection begging for help.

I wanted to see their eyes, talk to them, and find out their stories. It’s so much harder to look away when you’ve seen their soul and know their stories.

You wonder: Why did they end up here? How do they get by on so little? What do they need to get back on their feet? How do they survive the cold of the winter nights or the unbearable heat of the summer days?

The questions don’t always have easy answers because solutions are not always available. Oftentimes, going to a park and serving homemade meals, providing a haircut or a pair of socks or boxers, makes a small difference. It’s not only about giving out clothes because the biggest gift is simply listening and giving them a warm hug or a handshake. That makes them feel seen, heard, and appreciated.

With that being said, I give you the gift of their beautiful eyes and their big smiles .

Don’t look away next time!

I surely won’t!!!

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Laura Peischl (iSnob) was born in Romania, later she moved to Vienna, Austria where she studied German Studies and Psychology at the University of Vienna and has been based in Malta since 2004. Laura has been featured in various leading mobile photography websites and magazines. Her works have been displayed in numerous solo and/or collective exhibitions around the world. Her images have been mainly displayed in the United States including the OCCCA (Orange County Centre of Contemporary Art, The Lunch BOX Gallery in Miami, The Giorgi Gallery in Berkeley, California, Studio b in Florida, Philadelphia, Colorado as well as in LA Mobile Arts Festival 2012. Laura has also been teaching online iPhoneography courses at www.thecompellingimage.com for sometime now.

2 Comments

  • Debra Grady

    Thank you Laura Peischl for doing this beautiful article on my sister Sandra’s homeless ministry in Las Vegas, NV. Your photos are so capturing and brought me to tears. God Bless you and Happy New Year 2022!!

  • Tracy Mitchell Griggs

    A thoughtfully realized documentary view on the U.S. homeless problem. Unlike Europe, whose countries offer better social safety nets, the U.S. has not seen fit to provide universal health care, create more robust affordable housing solutions or other initiatives that would eliminate homelessness. Another cause is rooted in separation of mental health services, which have historically been detached from overall health coverage–but this returns us to the lack of universal healthcare services (single payer) in the U.S. which at present leaves people with few choices: forced poverty (Medicaid), benefits offered by full time employment or having financial resources for private coverage. Many homeless also struggle with addiction and mental health challenges. I applaud anyone dedicated to alleviating the immediate challenges faced by homeless individuals, but until this government digs deep to solve the root causes, services providing care to this population are sadly, very necesssry.

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