Photos for AMP by Jeff Smithwick
“In his face there came to be a brooding peace that is seen most often in the faces of the very sorrowful or the very wise. But still he wandered through the streets of the town, always silent and alone.”
~ Carson McCullers, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter
We are looking for faces. From the capitol to the soup kitchen. The museums to the playgrounds. The courthouse to the jailhouse. The Innovation Hub to William Woodruff’s print shop. Labor and delivery to Mount Holly. Faces of brooding peace. Sorrowful faces. Wise faces. Happy faces. Woo Pig Sooie faces. Faces young and old. The Faces of Little Rock. This gallery of faces from Canvas Community is the first installment of AMP’s new series Faces of Little Rock.
As I walk up to Canvas Community, a center and church for the homeless and disenfranchised in Little Rock, the smell of food drifts from the double doors that lead into a massive hall with couches and tables.
Men play dominoes at a table,and glance with weary eyes at people standing in line waiting for a meal ticket.
Some sprawl in chairs, watching Scooby-Doo on a projector. Others sleep on couches, safe for a moment from the unseasonable heat of an October afternoon. Others socialize outside, smoking, talking. The faces all tell a story, but some are harder than others to read.
Elijah: “I do a lot a volunteer work around here. Canvass, the Dream Center, all of that. I am 22. The time I spend here is all about the community. Helpin’ everybody out, and they help me out. It’s about serving your neighborhood. I have a life. I have a girlfriend and a little girl. I have been with her for about six or seven months. It’s going good. My little girl is two years old. When I get done with my social life, I come over here to my volunteer life. I cook for the guys cause this place has done me good in the past, and so I wanna do what I can to return what they gave me when I needed it. If I had everything I could want or need, I would still give back. This place is a part of my life.”
William: “I am originally from here. I am a veteran. I have been out here for about five years. I travel. I just got back home, and it has all changed. It is change for the good. I’ve been helpin’ with the churches. I started out as an alcoholic. I ain’t an alcoholic no more. I don’t do drugs no more. Now I am struggling to get my VA benefits back. My family made me wanna quit drinking. I lost a lot. Friends. Family. My parents are the reason I am down here workin’ for the churches. They always gave. When I was a kid, they used to feed the homeless. Me being down here is a tribute to them. I have turned a corner in my life. I wanna make a difference. I am gonna keep doing what I am doing.”
Shauna: “I came here from Austin, Texas. It had to have been about two years ago now. I met William at church when he was on the road. It was rough. We needed to get back here so he could work on getting his health back. We try to do our best to help out. Despite everything, we are goal-oriented people. Our goal is to help anyone and everyone we can down here. That has become really important to us.”
Derrick: “I am from Little Rock. I am 48 years old and homeless. There are a lot of factors that got me here. Some probably have to do with my childhood and being from the projects. I had to deal with some emotional problems that turned into drug addiction. You can’t keep a job when you’re on drugs. The reason I am here, I guess, is because this place is wholesome. It is the first place that has been this way for me in a long time. People here really care and want to help. When I got put in jail, they came and visited me. Finding love in a place is important for someone like me. I am trying to finish school and get my associates degree. My emotional problems tend to affect my grades. Living on the street tends to trickle down into my school performance. So we will have to work on that. I see myself doing something different after school. I would like to give back too. I think I might write a book. Just talk about my struggle. I would tell ya’ll that you need to stick to ethical values. Insidious dreams will end up ruining your life. I just want my family to know not to give up on me. I will make it on my own.”
Lucas: “I try to take care of my woman. I try to provide as much as possible. I don’t worry about myself. She worries about me the same way I care about her. She makes sure I don’t drink too much soda. She watches how much nicotine I get. I am from Corpus Christi, Texas. My lady brought me here. We wanted to be in a new place. I was a United States Marine. When I got out of the Corps, I started driving trucks for the military. … I was able to get a few jobs here and there, but nothing solid. My biggest issue is with the VA. I have lost a lot of brothers to war. Right in front of me. Right beside me. I’ve watched their bodies get blown away. Body parts flying past my face. I had a buddy whose chest got blown open like he ate a grenade. I don’t wanna see that ever again. I don’t want to see those guys when they come home get screwed. Someone needs to do something for them. They try to put people to work who don’t want to work, and they leave the people who want to work on the side. I am hoping that Hillary can fix the problem. I like freedom. But just stay in school. Stay away from the drugs. If you really want to serve, make sure you know what you’re signing up for. Once you sign that piece of paper, you’re signing your life away. Be smart, don’t rush it. I don’t regret going into the service. I just wish things would have ended up differently.”
Anna: “I have moved around but this is home. I am from Jacksonville originally. I have been married and divorced twice. It was after my second marriage fell apart that I found myself on the street. I am an Air Force brat. I spent some time in Minneapolis. It was easier to find work there, but finding a place was hard. Luckily, since moving back, finding a place has been a little easier, but nailing a good job has been harder. That is how the world works, I guess. I have a good hustle going with work, but I could always use more. I have seen people die out here. Falling dead out in the road. I am trying to get out. It ain’t nothing you wouldn’t see in other places. It wasn’t that hard to get up on my feet with the community here, but since Minneapolis didn’t work out, I am having to start all over. I am aiming for a house. If I can take care of that, I would be able to get better, I think. Yeah, working for minimum is hard, but baby steps are important in getting better. There are good people out here. Not just the churches. There are good homeless people. Don’t push everyone into the same group. The stigma of homelessness is bad. It ain’t all like that. Families will treat you like you are invisible. I don’t have any family left. I didn’t need them after all. You won’t go hungry here in Little Rock. You can survive out here.”