For this spotlight feature, I spoke to Jon Linton, founder and chief photographer of IHAVEANAME.org, a small not-for-profit organization, based in Phoenix, Arizona, aimed at reminding society at large that those who are homeless or displaced are not invisible, that they should still be counted and that they are a somebody, not a nobody, that they do have a name.
How did IHAVEANAME.org first start and why did you want to get involved?
In September of 2007 I began gathering imagery to document the homeless on the streets of Phoenix Arizona. That Fall I had volunteered both time and resource at a local homeless shelter to better understand the circumstance and plight of those without a place to call home. The project took shape, when the first man I photographed wept as I asked his name, “You have no idea how long it has been since someone cared to ask my name”, he stated.
The IHAVEANAME Project has a photography exhibition as part of it's awareness strategy. Have you struggled to find willing subjects for the photography exhibition and subsequent book of IHAVEANAME photography?
Sadly, responsive to this country's recent 'Great Recession' our city streets have far too many folks that find themselves in need. Subject to that consideration, we have had little trouble finding conversations and those that are willing to share their troubled accounts.
Has IHAVEANAME made a positive change in people's attitudes towards the homeless in the area you operate within?
The I Have a Name Project has a stream of positive threads from right here in our own backyard to as far away as Alaska, Australia, to little hamlets in Canada and from many people in the U.K as well. The responses have been both intricate in detail or as concise and poignant to simply suggest a thank you for the way in which the individual now views the homeless.
Do you have any success stories as a result of the actions of IHAVEANAME.org?
A story that quickly comes to kind is that of a mother who reached out around Thanksgiving here in the States and wanted me to know that a conversation I shared with her heroin addicted son left him inspired enough to seek sobriety and return home. If the Project accomplishes nothing else of measured meaning, this is enough!
What are the plans for IHAVEANAME.org? Do you plan to branch out across the pond or to other states within the US?
We are currently working with Grant Writers to secure funding that shall allow the Project to travel into different cities across our country. No plans are in place to travel beyond the boundaries of our expansive country. Those aspirations while interesting are more lofty than I am afraid reasonable.
How can readers of Project52 get involved with supporting IHAVEANAME.org?
Readers of Project 52 might simply be kind enough the visit our Facebook page and share our content. We are not a campaign that is in the public domain to raise monies but rather consciousness. https://www.facebook.com/
Finally, if there was anything you could say to the politicians and governments of the world, what would that be?
I would ask that those countries like our own that spend large amounts of dollars to wage unneeded wars to reaccess public policy and begin to take care of its' peoples that are in need!
Thank You to Jon Linton at Ihaveaname.org