Homeless is my address, not my name

A photo and oral history of homelessness in Minnesota

photos by Kris Drake and Cathy ten Broeke

The noise and the priorities of our culture drown out the voices of its most marginalized people. This photo and oral history project brings those voices and stories to the surface. Created from over 400 conversations with people experiencing homelessness in Minnesota, these stories and portraits depict the daily lives, suffering, and successes of people living under the most extreme form of poverty.

Homeless is My Address, Not My Name is a project created by St. Stephen’s Human Services in partnership with Family Housing Fund, Heading Home Minnesota, and the Minnesota Historical Society. Over 50 volunteers, including photographers and interviewers made this project possible. Oral history collection is ongoing throughout the state. For details about the traveling exhibit:  www.OralHistoryOfHomelessness.org

My name is Amanda. I’m 20 years old. I became homeless because I didn’t have the best life at home. So the day I turned 18 I left home and was sleeping in parks and all those places and then I’d pick up a boyfriend and go live there. Before I came here I was sleeping in a tent in Thief River. I had it hidden in the woods. I got sick. They don’t know what happened I was in so much pain I couldn’t move, a temperature of 106 and pregnant. They had to take my baby at 5-1/2 months in order for me to survive. Honestly, if I could have anything right now it would be just even a little shack to live in and to not worry about losing my job or being evicted. Read more

My name is Stevi, I’m 21. I became homeless because I decided to move to Minnesota from Kentucky. It was two years ago. I don’t know why I moved. I guess I was motivated. To do better, to get better things, you know. One thing I’m proud of is I graduated high school. The only one since my grandmother and I come from a huge family. I don’t know what else to say. It’s hard. Shoot, it is hard. It sucks. I’m sorry, I don’t want to cry. Read more

My name is Maria. I am 49 years old. I became homeless because I lost my apartment. My husband had beat me a lot, he left me with no money for groceries, nothing. Sometimes I look back and I say, Wow, I’m a strong woman, raised all those kids and one with a disability, and now I can’t do all the stuff that I used to do years ago. I’m responsible, but it’s harder now than it used to be. Read more

My name is Patricia. I’m 40 years old. I’m homeless because I chose to be homeless. I was using drugs and alcohol at the time. I wanted to get high and I did, and I came to realize that no one was there for me. So, I took the initiative to get myself together. It’s been like almost three years. I’ve got this theory thing that I do. I look in the mirror and say: “I like you. I love you. I trust you.” I’m still on the “I like you.” I haven’t got to the point where I can say “I love you and I trust you.” Read moreMy name is Jacqui. I’m 60 years old. I became homeless because I was ill. I stayed in a park for almost six weeks. Sick, sleeping in my car with my two cats. One problem I was having so much trouble with places to stay: I’m transsexual. Most homeless shelters around here won’t allow us. They don’t know whether to put us with the men or women, even though in my case I have had my surgery. Read more

My name is Rene. I am 24 years old. The very first time I became homeless was because my mom lost her public housing through drinking so we all got kicked out and we went, we had to live on the streets. I was 14, 13. I started getting locked up so that’s how I got by on that, and then when I got out my mom was in shelters, and she’d get kicked out of them and we’d be homeless and on the streets again. I became independent and I don’t really try to count on other people because I did that with my mom and she made us homeless all the time so I had to start counting on myself. Read more

I’m Angela and I’m 23 years old. I became homeless because my mom’s house burned down. I’ve been here for, like, two weeks now. It’s been hard. I feel depressed sometimes. I wanna cry but I pray about it every night and I try to be positive about the situation. I never been homeless. I always have my own apartment. I always been on my own two feet. It’s like you can be a nurse one day and you can be a librarian or you can be working at McDonald’s and be famous … anything can happen, you never know. I know I don’t wanna sit in no shelter for the rest of my life. I know I’m better than that so I push myself to the limits till I get tired. Read more