Humanizing The Dehumanized: Homeless On Franklin Street
Start writing a post
Politics and Activism

Humanizing The Dehumanized: Homeless On Franklin Street

Everybody deserves to tell their story.

121
Humanizing The Dehumanized: Homeless On Franklin Street
Karen Stahl Photography

Franklin Street is home to a number of trendy restaurants, hang-out spots and pop-up shops, all frequented by UNC Chapel Hill students and residents of the surrounding areas. On weeknights it's a great place to go with friends to find a reprieve from homework, and on weekends it's the prime place to be for a fun night of going out.

What about when those adventures are over? Students return to their dorms for a comfortable night of rest in their beds, and families head back home.

But for some, Franklin Street just happens to be home.

Homelessness is the most understated epidemic in America, with an average of 500,000 Americans living in the streets on any given day.

In large urban areas, the statistics are observable; however, in small towns such as Chapel Hill, the epidemic is slightly more nuanced. On streets that bustle with students and families, it can be difficult to see the individuals who call those streets home. These people are ignored, scoffed at, and not given the dignity of responses. Though sometimes the situation can seem threatening, most of the time the people who beg for just a kind word are direct victims -- of familial issues, of substance abuse and of bankruptcy, to name just a few.

So why are these humans who are condemned to the streets treated with such animosity? I took to Franklin Street to find out. I set out to humanize the dehumanized.

Meeting Charles

This information is published with explicit permission from the individual with whom the interview was conducted.

I walked up to Franklin Street on a blistering Wednesday afternoon, my back drenched in sweat from my backpack. It was unbearable, just hot and sticky and generally uncomfortable. I took my camera out to take some test shots of the lighting, and that's when I saw him.

As I would come to find out, I was looking at Charles Gear, a man who has been living on Franklin Street on and off since the late 1980s.

For all those years, he has called the small area outside the University Presbyterian Church his home.

He seemed skeptical as I walked up with my camera on my hip, so I gave an amicable smile. The last thing I wanted to come off as was threatening. As unobtrusively as possible, I took a seat next to him on the low stone wall where he typically resides, and he gazed up at me with stormy eyes.

I introduced myself and described my reasons for seeking him out. Though he seemed eager to chat, his responses were often limited to short answers, with some things sounding trite for him.

Almost immediately, he made sure to let me know that his whole day isn't spent sitting and watching the bustle of Franklin Street. He seemed uncomfortable with the notion that I may judge him for not being productive on a daily basis. After nearly three decades living on Franklin Street, not knowing where his next meal is coming from, and talking to various reporters and interviewers, he seemed rehearsed in quickly spitting out in a raspy Southern twang, "[I sit] right here. Not all day. I go to the hospital and visit where the sick children is sometimes."

As a man with a heart for humanity and human interaction, Gear told me all about how he loves being around people. His eyes lit up when I asked if any students ever come up to talk with him. He nodded, saying that he "typically talks with them about the Bible." Fittingly enough, he said that residing outside a large Presbyterian Church gives him hope for the plans that God holds for his future.

His past, however, is dark.

Gear started fidgeting when asked about his history, and the speculations as to why are endless. He didn't give much insight, for reasons of shame and discomfort. I, of course, didn't want to pry too much into this man's life on a random Wednesday afternoon, but he did imply that alcoholism may have been partially to blame for his current state. He said that there is a widely-spread notion that homelessness is the direct result of an addiction to drinking or drug abuse, or even both together. His eyes cast down to the ground and he quietly muttered, "Ain't it?"

He declined to relay any more about his personal journey.

I asked Gear if I could get him anything, or if there was anything he wanted the public to know about the homeless culture.

"Take [the homeless] out to eat sometime. Give us, like, a pair of socks. A toothbrush. People don't do a whole lot. It don't take a whole lot."

After a few more minutes of chatting, Gear mostly interested in asking me questions about the journalism school at Carolina, I snapped a few pictures and then headed to class. He waved goodbye and gave a crooked half-smile as I walked away. He thanked me for being so kind to him.

Aftermath

Since that encounter with Charles Gear, I have noticed a change in my own behavior. When coming in contact with homeless individuals, I used to be one of the majority who pass by with downcast eyes, neglecting to show any kind of interaction. Now, I walk by with a smile, and if I have any change, I'll give a dollar or two.

I don't have a lot of money to give right now, especially as a first-year college student, but as I learned, it doesn't take a lot to help.

I now find myself humanizing individuals on the streets and treating them with the same respect I would treat my peers. One's situation does not dictate character, it's how that individual deals with the situation that truly shows who he or she is.

So now, I walk on Franklin Street with a new perspective. I greet the people who call those blocks of concrete their homes, and if I have time to stop, I'll ask if I can get them anything from the convenience store down the street. The majority of the time they smile and say it's not necessary, even after I insist. These are real people. They're not part of the scenery. They have needs. They have lives. They have dreams.

And, of course, every time I walk down Franklin Street now, I make sure to greet Charles Gear. He always asks if I'm still writing good stories.

Hopefully, this one is up to his standards.

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
Swoon

23 Pandemic-Approved Date Ideas That'll Send Sparks Flying From Six Feet Apart

There's a safe way to date right now and yes, it includes masks.

56400

While some people would rather opt out of dating altogether during the pandemic so they don't have to wear a mask on a first date, others are choosing to listen to both guidelines and their heart in order to find love during the time of coronavirus (COVID-19).

Should you be one of the individuals welcoming romance right now, there are pandemic-approved dates you can go on that still adhere to guidelines (and yes, you'll have to wear a mask).

Keep Reading... Show less
Lifestyle

20 Books About Latin And Hispanic Heritage Absolutely Everyone Should Have On Their Bookshelf

Any ally of the community needs to be reading these incredible reads.

535

I go through phases when it comes to what I like to read. I am typically reading two books at any given time: one serious nonfiction and one escapist fiction novel to have on hand and open up depending on my mood.

What remains consistent, however, amongst most of my fellow bibliophiles is a desire to try new and different authors and genres. I, as an Indian woman, have been partial to reading books written by fellow Indian and Desi writers since I first got a library card.

Keep Reading... Show less

In our patriarchal society, men hide from their feelings, but toxic masculinity is literally killing men. They swallow the pain and move on so that they can look, feel, and act "tough."

But, strength is derived from asking for help and voicing your struggle and, trust me, working on your mental health is one hell of a struggle. The real way to "man up" is to acknowledge the downfalls in unjust societal norms. Mental health problems do not mean that a man is weak, they are neurologically-based disorders that require professional treatment.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

I Asked 46 Women What They Thought About The Term 'Plus-Size', And Here's What They Had To Say

It's 2020, where change is inevitable and norms are not only questioned, but challenged.

243

We live in a world where it's become customary to push boundaries, break rules, and question standards upheld by society. Though try as we might, some of these standards are harder to conquer than others — body image is one of the top contenders.

For years, the body positivity movement has pushed for the acceptance of all marginalized body types not represented or celebrated in the media. Recently, we've gotten better at appreciating and accepting all body types, but one thing that's still lingering is the stigma of body image in the fashion industry — more specifically, the term "plus-size."

Keep Reading... Show less
Politics and Activism

Sorry, But 'I Don’t Care About Politics' Is Not A Valid Excuse For NOT Voting

The younger generation of voters is so crucial to the upcoming election because our vote is going to shape the world that we are about to enter as adults.

17859

When I ask my friends if they are voting this term most of them respond with "no" followed by an explanation of "I don't care enough," "It doesn't affect me," or "I don't keep up with politics," etc. I get it, as a college student I know that there are many other things to be concerned about like school, relationships, work, and friends. I also understand that keeping up with politics can seem like trying to keep up with an over-exaggerated reality show that has way too many seasons. Not to mention most news stations and websites are biased so it's hard to decipher if what you hear is true or fake.

However, despite all of this annoyance, as the next generation of Americans, we have to remember that we owe it to ourselves, our families, and to our futures to care.

Keep Reading... Show less
Entertainment

Taylor Swift Sang 'betty' At The ACMs And It Was The Perfect First Live 'folklore' Performance

I guarantee that Inez is spreading rumors about how fire this performance was.

827
CBS

The Academy of Country Music Awards were last night and the performances were wonderful, but Taylor Swift's live version of "betty" from her newest album "folklore" really took the cake for me.

Keep Reading... Show less
Photo by Anna Hernández-Buces

"Do you have big parties on Cinco de Mayo?"

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

9 Reasons I Unfollowed All The Fitness Influencers On My Instagram Feed

I don't need to feel bad about myself because of who I follow on social media.

256

Throughout quarantine, something that a lot of us picked up on was working out. With all the free time, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to work on that "dream bod" you've been wanting for years, or to just feel good about yourself.

A common way to stay motivated and keep yourself on-task is to follow fitness influencers on various platforms. For some people, yes, this can be a healthy and helpful way to keep your drive. In other cases, however, this can do more harm than good.

Keep Reading... Show less
Lifestyle

The Ultimate Guide To Being A Latinx And Hispanic Community Ally

Educate and celebrate their culture to lift the community up.

734

It's well known that the Gen-Z and millennial generations are more passionate about social justice and conscious about their decisions as consumers as any other generation to come before us.

For these generations, making mindful decisions about where we like to allocate our money, who we choose to follow on Instagram, and even the books we like to read are extremely important to us. With the rise of the digital age, we are constantly consuming media and content, and so there's no longer an excuse for being uneducated if we want to be educated on a wide range of cultures.

Keep Reading... Show less

It was a day we all knew would possibly come but hoped it never would. The day the outbreak hit.

I remember, back in March, I was just about to return home from a socially distanced vacation in my Florida home with my mom and grandpa, when my dad called to tell us he was feeling sick. At the time, President Trump hadn't closed the borders, my school was still going back after Easter, and sheer panic hadn't yet flooded our news outlets. We were meant to return home on Saturday, but when the borders closed on Thursday, things got a little more serious.

Keep Reading... Show less
Swoon

21 Romance Novels You'll Fall In Love With By The Fire

It's time to cozy up and fantasize about our fav fictional love stories.

240

Recently, I found myself reading a bunch of romance novels and it's truly unleashing the romantic side of me. With fall weather nearing, it's the perfect time to cozy up with a good book and ignite the romantic flame in your hearts with the turn of every page.

Here are 21 romantic books you should read this fall, some I've read (hence the reviews), and some I'm hoping to get my hands on.

Keep Reading... Show less

There is a lot going on in the world right now, much of which is contributing to the mental health crisis we've found ourselves in. While it would be fantastic to snap our fingers and jump out of our rut, that's not exactly how these things work. Thankfully, small, sustainable steps can make a huge difference in your mental wellbeing.

Keep Reading... Show less
Lifestyle

These 10 Oversized Graphic Tees Are JUST As Cute As Urban Outfitters — And They're All Under $30

There is never a bad time to get some new oversized graphic tees, especially when they're all under $30.

6538

While we all love Urban Outfitters' graphic tees, it can be hard to justify a $40 T-shirt, so I am always on the hunt to find cheaper alternatives that are just as stylish! Thrifting is always an option for authentic, vintage tees, but we don't always have the time to search through the endless aisles of Goodwill.

Lucky for you, there are still affordable alternatives that don't require quite as much effort.

Keep Reading... Show less

On Monday, "Dancing with the Stars" returned to our televisions with their 29th season. This season featured a lot of different changes including a new host, a new judge as well as a new judging system.

Among these changes, there were also changes to account for the coronavirus pandemic. Some of these changes included practicing socially distancing as well as different filming practices.

Keep Reading... Show less
Facebook Comments