Photographer who spent TEN YEARS documenting LA’s notorious homeless problem shares his most powerful images

By Chris Jewers For Mailonline

A photographer who spent a decade on Los Angeles‘ notorious homeless hotspot Skid Row has revealed his work. The poverty-stricken conditions faced daily by the almost 5,000 residents of the downtown area of Los Angeles are shown in the series of gritty black and white photos. Photographer Suitcase Joe spent ten years getting to know and photographing the homeless people who live in tents that line the area in downtown Los Angeles, and he has now released a book entitled ‘Sidewalk Champions’. Over the years Joe gained trust and formed friendships within the homeless community, the largest in America, allowing him unprecedented access to document their daily lives. Some of the images are challenging, depicting the drug use and poverty rife in Skid Row.

A series of photographs taken on Los Angeles' 'Skid Row' - where the city's largest community of homeless people are based - have been released by street photographer Suitcase Joe in a new book. Pictured: A group of homeless people on Skid Row, one of whom is seen inside a tent on the sidewalk, another receives a hair cut, as a woman walks down the street

A series of photographs taken on Los Angeles’ ‘Skid Row’ – where the city’s largest community of homeless people are based – have been released by street photographer Suitcase Joe in a new book. Pictured: A group of homeless people on Skid Row, one of whom is seen inside a tent on the sidewalk, another receives a hair cut, as a woman walks down the street

Bruce, left, pushes his friend as they go for a stroll whilst Pepper, right, holds his cat Justice as they come together to pose for a family style photo

Bruce, left, pushes his friend as they go for a stroll whilst Pepper, right, holds his cat Justice as they come together to pose for a family style photo.

A man known as Mel poses for the camera while shirtless on Skid Row

A man known as Mel poses for the camera while shirtless on Skid Row

Pictured: A man named Crushow cleans the floor as his dog Ugly hangs around nearby on Skid Row

Pictured: A man named Crushow cleans the floor as his dog Ugly hangs around nearby on Skid Row

Newly-weds Row and Kricket kissing each other. The pair met on Skid Row, and say how wonderful it is to have found someone who they can trust and love among the community

Newly-weds Row and Kricket kissing each other. The pair met on Skid Row, and say how wonderful it is to have found someone who they can trust and love among the community

However, there are also heart-warming snapshots amongst the collection, such as newly-weds Row and Kricket kissing each other. The pair met on Skid Row, and say how wonderful it is to have found someone who they can trust and love. A well-known Skid Row character is a man named Jerry who has a serious facial disfigurement after surviving a shooting at a bus stop. Despite his terrible injury, Jerry was often photographed smiling and laughing however he sadly passed away in December 2020. Other pictures show Chelsea, in high heels holding a huge pellet gun. She bought it to defend her tent – from rats. Typhus is an issue on Skid Row, that is carried by the fleas that live on the unwanted rodents.

A man cooks chicken outside tends using a makeshift kitchen, including a metal drum and a metal grill used as a barbecue. He used a table knife and fork to cook the food on the makeshift grill

A man cooks chicken outside tends using a makeshift kitchen, including a metal drum and a metal grill used as a barbecue. He used a table knife and fork to cook the food on the makeshift grill

Pictured: A man with only one eye poses for the camera on Skid Row. Skid Row is the location of one of the largest stable populations of homeless people in the U.S. with over 5,000 inhabitants, 3,000 of which sleep in tents or on the sidewalk

Pictured: A man with only one eye poses for the camera on Skid Row. 

Skid Row is the location of one of the largest stable populations of homeless people in the U.S. with over 5,000 inhabitants, 3,000 of which sleep in tents or on the sidewalk

Stephanie, who found an unexploded mortar outside her tent one morning in Skid Row, she picked it up but the fuse went off exploding in her hand

Stephanie, who found an unexploded mortar outside her tent one morning in Skid Row, she picked it up but the fuse went off exploding in her hand.

Chelsea, in high heels holding a huge pellet gun. She bought it to defend her tent - from rats. Typhus is an issue on Skid Row, that is carried by the fleas that live on the unwanted rodents

Chelsea, in high heels holding a huge pellet gun. She bought it to defend her tent – from rats. Typhus is an issue on Skid Row, that is carried by the fleas that live on the unwanted rodents

One Skid Row resident heats up pasta using a bin with some fire wood inside it to boil water, in another makeshift kitchen

One Skid Row resident heats up pasta using a bin with some fire wood inside it to boil water, in another makeshift kitchen

Another picture shows Stephanie, who found an unexploded mortar outside her tent one morning, she picked it up but the fuse went off exploding in her hand. She lost her thumb and index finger, and now struggles to take care of the injury because of not having access to clean bandages and iodine. Suitcase Joe is an activist and advocate for the rights of all unhoused individuals. He co-founded the Suitcase Joe Foundation to serve the people of Skid Row with day to day needs and to provide support services for getting into long term housing. Skid Row is the location of one of the largest stable populations of homeless people in the U.S. with over 5,000 inhabitants, 3,000 of which sleep in tents or on the sidewalk.  Proceeds from the sale of ‘Sidewalk Champions’ will help support the Suitcase Joe Foundation and directly aid unhoused residents of Skid Row. 

 Jenny looks out from her tent that is located in Skid Row

Jenny looks out from her tent on Skid Row.

A resident of Skid Row gives a wry smile as he sits for his portrait.

A resident of Skid Row gives a wry smile as he sits for his portrait

Pictured: A needle being injected into the neck of one of the residents in Skid Row. Some of the images are challenging, depicting the drug use and poverty rife in Skid Row that is unimaginable to many people

Pictured: A needle being injected into the neck of one of the residents in Skid Row. 

Some of the images are challenging, depicting the drug use and poverty rife in Skid Row that is unimaginable to many people

Cricket takes a bath in a metal bin that he heated up with a propane stove beneath the tub and added some essential oils into that he found that had been discarded from a nearby shop

Cricket takes a bath in a metal bin that he heated up with a propane stove beneath the tub and added some essential oils into that he found that had been discarded from a nearby shop

Jerry, who has a serious facial disfigurement after surviving a shooting at a bus stop. Despite his terrible injury, Jerry was often photographed smiling and laughing however he sadly passed away in December 2020

Jerry who has a serious facial disfigurement after surviving a shooting at a bus stop. Despite his terrible injury, Jerry was often photographed smiling and laughing however he sadly passed away in December 2020

Graffiti on the road says 'F*** the Police', making it clear the neighbourhood's attitude towards authority

Graffiti on the road says ‘Fuck the Police’, making it clear the neighbourhood’s attitude towards authority.

The book has been released amid reports that Los Angeles’ homeless communities are being ‘overwhelmed’ by Covid-19, with dozens of people living in Skid Row’s homeless shelters being diagnosed with the disease. A tent at the Union Rescue Mission, a charity working to help the area’s homeless, became an triage center in response to a sudden surge in the spread of the disease through the shelter system. Earlier estimates predicted devastating outbreaks in homeless shelters in the California city. While infections among the homeless have lagged behind the county’s per capita rate, the December surge has seen a spike in the number of cases in homeless people as well. Fall saw an average of around 60 new cases each week, but infections among homeless people doubled the week after Thanksgiving. The Department of Public Health’s final report of 2020 showed 547 new cases in the previous week. ‘The unexplainable protection that people who are homeless have had from COVID is disappearing,’ Rev. Andrew J. Bales, chief executive of the Union Rescue Mission, said to the Los Angeles Times. ‘All of skid row and many agencies/missions are hot spots. All are overwhelmed.’  

Boxer, poses for a portrait on Skid Row. He's an addict who had recently taken a bad batch of drugs

Boxer, poses for a portrait on Skid Row. He’s an addict who had recently taken a bad batch of drugs.

A disturbing scene showing a naked man sprawled on a rainy street in Skid Row.+23

A disturbing scene showing a naked man sprawled on a rainy street in Skid Row

A Skid Row resident gets a haircut from a fellow resident on the sidewalk on Skid Row in Los Angeles

A Skid Row resident gets a haircut from a fellow resident on the sidewalk on Skid Row in Los Angeles

Pictured: A woman washes herself inside her tent on Skid Row. Without proper hygiene facilities, there have been fears that the coronavirus will spread quickly through the community

Pictured: A woman washes herself inside her tent on Skid Row. Without proper hygiene facilities, there have been fears that the coronavirus will spread quickly through the community

Graffiti and litter is strewn around a street in Skid Row. Covering fifty city blocks (2.71 sq mi) immediately east of downtown Los Angeles, Skid Row is bordered by Third Street to the north, Seventh Street to the south, Alameda Street to the east, and Main Street to the west

Graffiti and litter is strewn around a street in Skid Row. Covering fifty city blocks (2.71 sq mi) immediately east of downtown Los Angeles, Skid Row is bordered by Third Street to the north, Seventh Street to the south, Alameda Street to the east, and Main Street to the west

California’s COVID-19 surge is showing signs of leveling off after besieging hospitals, emergency services and morgues for weeks, the state’s top health official said on Tuesday, as medical staffing continued to buckle under the strain. The number of newly hospitalized coronavirus patients statewide has declined to 2,500 admissions every 24 hours over the past two days, down from 3,500 in previous days, California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr Mark Ghaly said in an online briefing with reporters. Ghaly called it ‘the biggest signal to me that things are beginning to flatten and potentially improve.’ He cited several other promising trends, including a slowdown in confirmed daily case numbers – 36,487 reported Tuesday, down from a weekly average of 42,000 cases a day – and a leveling off in the rate of diagnostic tests coming back positive. Moreover, a 5% uptick in COVID patients in hospitals over the past 14 days marked the lowest rate of increase in more than two months, Ghaly said. But he acknowledged that health officials were ‘absolutely’ worried about the spread of a more infectious variant of the coronavirus that emerged in Britain and has shown up in the United States and other countries. 

A person with a duvet thrown over them walks the streets of Skid Row. Suitcase Joe is an activist and advocate for the rights of all unhoused individuals. He co-founded the Suitcase Joe Foundation to serve the people of Skid Row with day to day needs and to provide support services for getting into long term housing

A person with a duvet thrown over them walks the streets of Skid Row. 

Suitcase Joe is an activist and advocate for the rights of all unhoused individuals. He co-founded the Suitcase Joe Foundation to serve the people of Skid Row with day to day needs and to provide support services for getting into long term housing

A resident of Skid Row injects a needle into her arm. Drug abuse is a prevalent issue among the residents of the area

A resident of Skid Row injects a needle into her arm. Drug abuse is a prevalent issue among the residents of the area

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