Doug Bruns

Gentlemen of Baltimore: Ben

In Life, Photography, Writing on April 27, 2012 at 6:00 am

Ben, age: 27

“I am vietnamese.” To compound the challenge of homelessness, Ben hardly spoke English. He came to America to be with his aunt three years ago, to pursue a life in America. He worked in a restaurant until it closed nine months ago. His aunt left him. “She go with somebody. I don’t know where she went.”

It was his hope to get to Washington, to the Vietnamese Embassy. He hoped they might be able to help him. He kept wiping his tears. He was a picture of despair. “I want to go back to Vietnam. My mom and dad are still there.” When I left him he grabbed his bags and walked to the corner. I watched him. He stood there, staring into the street. I walked a block away and when I looked back he was sill there, motionless.

  1. I would have had to help him. Help him find a job or something!

    • Thanks for reading and commenting, Sherry. I tried to step in on several occasions during this project. I discovered a young family sleeping in a park. There were two kids. The couple were young and handsome. But the family was in very difficult straights. I took them to find an apartment. I was going to pay for it. I also found a job for the husband. He was a carpenter. But, one thing led to another, and the apartment went empty. The family had moved from the park. I searched for them for several weeks. When I found them finally, the couple were strung out. The kids were crying. It was heartbreaking. They’d used the money for herion.

      There was another man, a happier story, where I became his sponsor to the state. He got assisted housing and a part-time job at a health-care facility where I knew some people. That was a happier ending.

      Poor Ben was a challenge. We set up a time and place for me to take him to DC to the embassy. He didn’t show up. I asked around, lest messages for him on the street. No show. Then I found him and we tried it again. Again he disappeared. Then, sadly, tragically, I heard he’d died. It still plagues me. So many of these guys were so haunted. I never understood exactly what Ben’s situation was. I learned through the project that much of what I was told was a mix of what was true and what was not. Still, whatever the story was, I cared about them and wanted to help if I could.

      Eveuntally I self published a book and the proceeds from it went to Health Care for the Homeless, a terrific orgaization in Baltimore that really does a fantastic job for these folks. It was a small thing, but it was something.

      • Wow…you really did help! That’s amazing! Drugs are such a problem now-a-days. Teenagers are getting hooked on Oxycotin (synthetic heroin) and then eventually end up on heroin. It’s an epedemic! You sound like such a caring, compassionate person. Thanks for being you!!

I welcome your comments. Thanks for reading.

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