Your Story Has a Home Here: Oral Histories and Photos of D.C.'s Residents Without Homes

Project Reflections

Your Story Has a Home Here was an eight-month partnership between DC Public Library and the National Coalition for the Homeless in 2009-2010. DC Public Library’s Teens of Distinction developed an understanding of the homeless by collecting their oral histories and photographing them. This is the blog of their experiences.

Angela and Nathaniel Anderson

Interviewer: Anika Rice
Photographer: Miranta Clark
Interview date: March 23, 2010

This week I was the photographer. It was my first shoot, and I was nervous at first and thought I was going to forget everything that I learned on camera technique. Once I played around with it a little, though, I remembered. When the Andersons came in, I was ready to shoot. They were great models. They brought in the natural, " I just wanna have fun" energy, and they made it a fun photo shoot.

--Miranta

Angela and Nathaniel Anderson

Constance Jamison

Interviewer:  Dawnesha Coffin
Photographer:  Raekala Middleton
Interview date:  Feb. 23, 2010

Interviewing Constance Jamison was a wonderful experience. She brought a new perspective about homelessness. She accepts what has been done to her and chooses to continue to live her life the best way she knows how. Although I was kind of “under the weather,” and she had been doing a lot of running around before the interview, we talked as though we were long lost friends catching up on each other's lives.

--Dawnesha

photo of Constance Jamison

Terry Snead

Interviewer: Miranta Clark
Photographer: Raekala Middleton
Interview date: Feb. 16, 2010

Interviewing Terry was very relaxed and easy.  He was very talkative and insightful about his life and on his experiences. The interesting element of this interview was that his story was based on self-inflicted problems. 

--Miranta


The photo shoot with Terry was exciting and interesting.  I felt good taking pictures of Terry. I was calm and ready to work.  This was my second time doing a photo shoot, so nothing technically was challenging for me, except getting the “perfect” shot. Terry was in a good mood and ready to be in front of the camera. He came in with a bright smile, and he left the same way. He was very excited to show off the soccer medallion he wore around his neck. I didn’t get much information on the medallion, but he held it with care and made sure to flaunt it, which leads me to believe it meant a lot to him.

--Raekala

Terry Snead

Mary Virginia Abe

Interviewer: Anika Rice
Photographer: Dawnesha Coffin
Interview date: Jan. 19, 2010

I felt pretty comfortable interviewing Mary Virginia.  She was warm, friendly, and patient.  I started asking Mary Virginia about her childhood and her childhood dreams.  I then asked her about her experiences with homelessness.  Since I moved from the childhood questions to the homeless experience questions to the reflection questions very quickly, I had to go back toward the end of the interview and fill in gaps in her story.  We finished the interview under 30 minutes, so after collaborating with group members, I went back and did a continuation.  In this second part, I was able to go more in-depth about her farm work as a girl, why she decided to move to the city, her college life, her friends, the shelter, and her volunteer work.
 
--Anika

Mary Virginia

Eric Sheptock

Interviewer: Raekala Middleton
Photographer: Anika Rice
Photographer's Assistant: Chika Onwunvuche
Interview date: Dec. 8, 2009

Eric was smiling when I came into room 419 at the Martin Luther King Library. He was ready to talk! My interview with Eric felt good. It wasn’t as nerve-wracking as I thought it would be. Eric mentioned that his foster parents had over 25 children when he was adopted. His last words were “I will be here to make the changes I set out to make [for the homeless], and will be here when they are publicly announced!"


--Raekala


I took the photos of Eric S. After setting up the lighting with the photography assistant, I greeted Eric and tried to get a feel for his style and how he expressed himself in the interview. Eric posed in various positions, and I took full shots, torso shots and head shots.  With proper lighting adjustments, the photos came out clear and vibrant.  Eric was a very enthusiastic and cooperative subject to photograph.


--Anika

Eric Sheptock

Stephen (Steve) Thomas

Interviewer: Dawnesha Coffin
Photographer: Raekala Middleton
Photographer's Assistant: Miranta Clark
Interview date: Nov. 24, 2009

After about five sound checks and some friendly advice from the Channel 7 news crew (who were visiting), we were ready to begin. I asked a lot of general questions, and after a few of them, the news crew left. Once they were gone, I got deeper in conversation with Steve. Steve answered every question, but in general terms (he spoke as if he were speaking for all homeless people). He struggled a little when we bought up questions about his family, especially about his relationship with his mother. When we were on a topic he did not want to discuss, he began to talk in general terms again—about how homelessness can affect everyone and how his problems are just like others.

--Dawnesha


This was the first photo shoot for the project, and I was nervous about how it would turn out. Unlike my expectations, we had a pretty good outcome and a surprise. The interviewee was great and had high energy. He was very sociable.

--Miranta

Steven Thomas