Sunday, 13 October 2013

Homeless in Suburbia: Portraits From Jeffersonville, Indiana by Dana Lixenberg

In 1997, Dana Lixenberg accepted a magazine commission that would evolve into one of the great personal projects of her career: an ongoing portrait series of the tenants at Haven House, a homeless shelter in Jeffersonville, Ind.
The New York City-based photographer originally traveled to the Hoosier State to document the shelter’s young homeless women for the now-defunct Jane magazine. But she was struck by the variety of people she met and how much they defied the stereotypical image of homelessness.
“We’re used to seeing photos of homeless people on the street—the down and out, maybe they have a mental illness, or drug and alcohol problems—and it’s easy to distance yourself from them and say, ‘That’s not me,’” Lixenberg says. “The people I met were the working poor, and I was drawn to their strength and charisma in a circumstance that I would find incredibly hard to deal with."
Total homelessness in the country has dropped an estimated 17 percent from 2005-2012, according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness. But the percentage of rural or suburban homelessness rose from 23 percent to 32 percent in the 12 months ending September 2008, per a survey by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. In fact Barbara Anderson, executive director of Haven House, says most people are surprised to learn that the majority of her tenants are elderly women and their families. Her busiest months so far this year have been August and September, when many families were preparing to send their kids back to school, with 85 people staying in the shelter built for 60 on some nights. Like Lixenberg, she thinks that the nation needs to broaden its perception of homelessness in order for the situation to improve.
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