Tucson, USA

Brian and his campmates

Panhandling at an intersection, we met Brian, a 36 year-old army veteran who served his country for 10 years and had three combat tours; two in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. A native of Dallas, Texas, Brian has been living on the streets in Tucson for nearly 5 years.

Photography and storytelling: Tony Dočekal
18-02-2021
Est. 3 minutes

Panhandling at an intersection, we met Brian, a 36 year-old army veteran who served his country for 10 years and had three combat tours; two in Iraq and one in Afghanistan.

A native of Dallas, Texas, Brian has been living on the streets in Tucson for nearly 5 years.

“There’s good days and bad days. Just like any other job that you’d work for tips. It’s like being self-employed.”

Depending on Brian is Buddy, his pet dog, who continues to motivate him.

“There’s no one to fire you if you go home early. Having a pet is a motivation, because I have someone that is relying on me.”

Brian

“I didn’t have to worry about paying bills, didn’t have to worry about the lights, the water. It was just wake up, live, survive and come home.”

Brian, reminiscing over his time in the military.
Listen to Brian

Although we only had one more Shelterbag remaining, Brian wanted to introduce us to his camp mates and share the design with them.

On presenting a Shelterbag to Brian, he commented:

“This is very beneficial. It’s lightweight, easy to carry around. It’s not a tent, so [authorities] can’t stop you, but it still gives you the sheltered protection.”

Brian, who introduced us to Mike, invited us to see their makeshift shelter, an ever changing structure that could sleep 3, sometimes 4, plus Buddy.

“It’s all quickly built, and can go up as fast as it comes down.”

– Mike

Brian told us that he briefly moved away from the camp, but as it became more established, he returned.

“I was here before everyone else was, but it wasn’t filled up like this. It was just blankets behind the bush over there. I migrated back over here to watch over. It’s kind of Bill’s camp, since he’s been here the longest.


Luis (58) used to live in Los Angeles, but came back to Tucson to take care of his mother before she passed away. She died 21 years ago.

“I have family here, but I haven’t been back home in 31 years.”

Mike
Angel
Christel

“I see great things come out of these people every day. I’ve seen people that are broke and asking for change giving their last quarter for somebody who is thirsty. Or give away blankets, so they have none.”

– Mike
Listen to Mike

“Everybody here is pretty good to each other, you know. We, as homeless people, know the extent of each other’s needs and what it really comes down to.

So when we see somebody that needs something, we usually don’t hesitate. It’s not even a second thought, and it’s not something we bring up later on.

But people that are afraid of, or avoid doing work, those people usually don’t last long in a camp.”

– Mike

Help people like Brian, Luis & Mike

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About this project

For this ongoing project, we engage with unhoused communities in various cities, amidst an unbiased global pandemic. The intimate documentary reflects the unraveling of society and exposes the equal measures of strength and vulnerability of each of its characters.

By capturing these raw moments in a new light, we challenge the mainstream representation of an ever-increasing, forgotten group of individuals. It reminds us that people who experience homelessness should neither be labeled nor disregarded. Each person has a story to tell.