Today we once again got an early start on our first day in Columbus, Georgia. Because we’re so close to the Central Time dividing line, it stays dark late into the morning here. Our production trio fueled up at the hotel breakfast buffet, then it was off to the Homeless Resource Network on the other side of the Columbus tracks. What awaited us there would leave us quiet on the way back to the ranch tonight, each of us deep in reflection on faces we never thought we would see.

We showed up at the Resource Network with arms full of camera gear. This is a place where homeless people come to be connected to much-needed resources like securing an identification, receiving mail and phone service, haircuts, backpack storage, and much more.

The line was already down the sidewalk an hour before it opened. Once the volunteers unlocked that door, the lobby quickly filled with people waiting their turn, some anxiously, some looking like they had nowhere else in the world to be.

The line was already down the sidewalk an hour before it opened. Once the volunteers unlocked that door, the lobby quickly filled with people waiting their turn, some anxiously, some looking like they had nowhere else in the world to be.

We were introduced to our first interviewee: David.

“I’ve contemplated taking my life. I wouldn’t wish homelessness on my worst enemy.”

Wow. That’s not something you usually expect a total stranger to admit to you. But there it was, a soul laid bare right across the table from me. There are those moments during interviews that just stop me in my tracks, that send chills down my spine, that I hear at night when I lay down to go to sleep. That will be one of those moments.

“It’s a horrible, horrible feeling not to have anywhere to wash off the day, to brush your teeth, to take a bath. And the bugs, the bugs will eat you alive while you sleep.”

Homelessness, all of a sudden, looked very different to me. This man sitting across from me, he is not a concept. He’s not a word or a statistic that we throw around during election season. He is David. He is a human being. He has a heart, a soul. He laughs, he cries. He has hopes, he has disappointments.

After this interview, I get to go back to a hot shower and a warm bed. He must fend for himself on the street. That is something that is hard to describe, and it’s something I wish wasn’t true. It’s a glaring difference between me and him, if I’m looking on the outside. But when I look just a hair past this, at something just slightly deeper, I immediately see someone a lot like me, and a lot like every other human being I know.


Interviewee number 2: James.

“I’m prepared to die, but I’m not ready to die.” We all leaned forward to hear, straining our ears to barely make out every couple of words. It didn’t take long to realize why James was so hard to understand. He has throat cancer. Every syllable sounded so painful for him, but his message needed to be heard. It cut right to the heart. In addition to having throat cancer, James is HIV positive. He was about 25 years

We all leaned forward to hear, straining our ears to barely make out every couple of words. It didn’t take long to realize why James was so hard to understand. He has throat cancer. Every syllable sounded so painful for him, but his message needed to be heard. It cut right to the heart. In addition to having throat cancer, James is HIV positive. He was about 25 years into a life sentence in prison when he was given six months to live. He was then essentially released so he could die in the peace of his own home. Except, he didn’t have a home to die in. That’s when the Homeless Resource Network stepped in to get him a place. It’s newly found freedom, under the shadow of almost certain death. Where does that leave a person?

“You know, the old saying goes: ‘Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die.’ ”

For most people, it’s hard to imagine everyday life in the face of death. But for people like James, it’s a constant reality.


The day concluded with some sunset video down by the river, where several homeless people were already hunkered down for the evening.

Every look through the lens, whether on the tracks, over the water, or across from a person, is a moment of meaning to me. In it, I find the power, and the incredible responsibility, to capture a story. Each time I peer into the viewfinder, I feel the excitement of this art. I also feel the weight on my shoulders to do it justice. 

We are somber, we are humbled. Day one in the books.