Meet Preston, 34, homeless, and the inspiration behind my project.

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Two years ago, while in the Castro District of San Francisco, I interviewed a man about the aftermath of Pulse Nightclub shooting. I learnt that this man had been homeless since he was a child and this kind of life is all he knows. 

A year later, I read an article in the San Francisco Chronicle.  A full time apple employee had been living out of his car in order to make ends meet.

Both of these men didn’t fit under the addict, pan-handler or gambler stereotypes that I had always categorized homeless individuals under. I realized this was not the reality for most of Silicon Valley’s homeless population; instead, a significant portion of these people are educated and employed but cannot afford housing close to their tech jobs.

My project, titled “Homeless of Silicon Valley” attempts to answer questions like what paths, besides traditional ones like drugs, alcohol and lack of education, can lead to homelessness? and What role do the SV housing crisis and housing shortage play in this?

To put some numbers to my words, between 2012 and 2015, the city of Mountain View added 18,000 jobs but only 780 new housing units. With this areas cost of living, it comes as no surprise that just 10 minutes from Google’s headquarters, there is a park specifically for RV-turned-homes

These numbers don’t stop with just Mountain View. Four out of every ten jobs created in the Santa Clara County pay less than $21,000, and in the last three years alone, the cost of living has increased by 61%.

Yes, there is an abundance of data supporting this information, and yes, I could research all day and just regurgitate information but that lacks impact.

I want to make these numbers real. I want to make these people that are just like us come to life.

Brandon Stanton, the author of the famous Humans Of New York blogs and best selling books, travelled to New York with the goal of photographing 10,000 residents. Somewhere between capturing the smiles and auras of his subjects, Stanton began recording their answers to some simple questions. He used the power of his camera and the power of simple conversation to feature the diversity of NY residents while transcending their differences. His work went viral almost overnight. 

I want to use the same power of media and my love for photojournalism to highlight the hidden homeless of silicon valley, especially those that are defying stereotypes.

By conducting my own interviews, capturing photos of unique homeless individuals, and compiling them into my own Homeless of Silicon Valley Book, I hope to shatter stereotypes and build empathy because without it, people don’t act.

More Information: Senior Project Proposal