The statistics speak for
themselves: between 30% and 50% of homeless single adults in shelters in New
York City have chronic mental illnesses.
The cost of bed in a psychiatric hospital is $113,000 per year, the cost
of a prison cell is $60,000 per year, but the cost of a supportive housing
apartment with on-site services is $12,500 per year. Its shocking that the wealthiest countries in the world continue
to have so many people wandering their city streets with no room to call their
own. The shock is not just that our
society is so uncaring, but that it is so bad at planning it makes no
economic sense to have such high rates of homelessness.
whatever the politics of the situation, the homeless are hard for most people
to deal with, especially if they are raving, ranting, or want ones
attention. Only a few days ago I
remember sitting in the waiting room at Penn Station, NYC, when some probably
homeless crazy guy sat a couple of seats from me. The lady he sat next to immediately got up and left. I did not turn to the man and smile and
start a conversation, but instead, kept on reading my book, hoping he would go
photographs by Salvo Galano show the humanity of the homeless people
depicted. He set up his camera in the Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen, and the
large format black and white photographs are accompanied by short descriptions
of the subjects. They are not presented
as case histories, but rather as people who have experienced terrible
difficulty, and have ended up on the street.
Some probably have mental illness, others are disabled, others were
thrown out from their homes by landlords or parents, and some seem to have
chosen to live their lives without homes.
Most of Galanos subjects smile for the camera, and they all carry
themselves with dignity. Their faces
are full of character and experience, and they look like people one would like
to get to know better. The pictures and
the descriptions do not try to portray these people as victims, nor as people
experiencing their just deserts; nor do they hint at the anger and resentment
that many of these people probably feel at their circumstances. What we see mostly are people with stories
to tell, getting by in a harsh city.
These are powerful, warm photographs, and reading through this
collection reminds one that the people living on streets and benches and in
shelters should not be thrown away like trash.
Galano web page
© 2002 Christian Perring. First Serial Rights.
Ph.D., is Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College,
Long Island. He is editor of Metapsychology Online Review.
His main research is on philosophical issues in psychiatry.
He is especially interested in exploring how philosophers can
play a greater role in public life, and he is keen to help foster
communication between philosophers, mental health professionals,
and the general public.