I spend my days at the Texas Medical Center (TMC) in Houston, where 106,000 people work and 3,300 patients get their health care every day. Across the street from the TMC lies Hermann Park, where parents and children go to the zoo, ride the kiddie train, enjoy fountains, listen to music, go to the Museum of Natural Science, and walk in the Japanese Garden.
Street people also live in the park. Many of them are homeless, disabled, addicted, or mentally ill. I spend a few hours each week talking with them, taking pictures, adding to their daily income from pan handling. I never forget that I am on their turf. While I look at them, they are looking at me, sizing me up. Last weekend I talked with a 29-year-old man named Jarmel, who lost most of his right leg in a truck accident. I took 20 pictures. He gave me 20 looks. I gave him 20 dollars. In this picture, he dropped his guard.
As we parted, he turned his wheel chair around and rolled down a path toward a dozen other men, seated on a concrete circular bench. He gave the money to one of them, perhaps to spare himself another black eye.