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Photo Essay: What Do You Do When the Homeless Man on the Street is Your Father?

I documented the difficult experience of reconnecting with my homeless father.


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Photo: Courtesy of Diana Kim

 

This photo essay is part of a photographic project I began nearly five years ago, documenting the homeless of Honolulu. During that time, I learned that my own father was living on the streets, and I began to chronicle our encounters, to try to put the experience into perspective.

 

Initially, the fact that I couldn’t “fix” my dad tore me apart. And because our time together on the streets was more than I had ever spent with him as a child, I struggled to reconcile my feelings toward my father’s absence in my life, while continuing to care deeply for him and other homeless individuals. Over time, I learned to navigate through my feelings of desperation and became more vocal in my community about my father’s condition and what it’s like to watch a loved one battle mental illness.

 

Sharing this family story is scary. I am afraid it’s a story that won’t have a happy ending. I am afraid because I know I can’t change him. I am afraid that people will judge me, and my father, and frame their views based on their own experiences. But I also know that this could reach people who are having similar experiences. We have to try. I have to keep trying.

 

 

What’s next for Diana Kim? Visit her blog homelessparadise.com to see more photos documenting homelessness in Hawai‘i. Also, learn more about a project Kim is working on with the CARE Medical History Bracelets team, to digitize important identification and medical documents for homeless individuals, in the form of a bracelet.

 

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