“I don’t mind work. I do anything. I dig a trench for you. But we need help. It’s getting serious out here. Winter’s going to be here in a minute. I ain’t got another winter in me on these streets. I can’t do it.”
–James, 35 years old, homeless 3 ½ years.
So begins the first installment of Father Bob McCabe’s series of video photo essays. In them, he gives a human face to the people we tend to forget: those who are homeless.
“Most people haven’t even looked into the eyes of a poor person,” Father McCabe says. But McCabe’s encounters with people around Detroit inspired him to take action. He took to the streets with his camera in hand, speaking with the people who are struggling with homelessness in his city. In putting together this project on YouTube, his goal is to emphasize their human dignity. His work is inspired by the words of Mother Teresa: “Jesus in the distressing disguise of the poor.”
Rather than a voyeuristic look at those who live on the margins, McCabe hopes that his photos will inspire people to follow the teachings of Pope Francis and to have a true encounter with those struggling to survive. In learning their names and stories, McCabe says, he is reminded that each of us is created in the image of God and that all people, no matter where they live or who they are, are part of the body of Christ.
Take Michael, for example, who is pictured above. Michael was an amputee who was confined to a wheelchair. At the time this photo was taken, he told Father Bob McCabe that he was “43 lucky years old.” Michael was a well-known fixture at Detroit's local sporting events; during the summer he could often be found outside Comerica Park, home of the Detroit Tigers, chanting “Chew 'em up Tigers! Chew 'em up!” as fans headed into the stadium. However, Michael was hit by a car and passed away.
“We are all wounded. We are all poor in one way or another,” says McCabe. “So we all have a lot more in common with the poor and the homeless than we might initially think.”
Several of Father McCabe’s photographs appeared in a photo story in the November 2015 issue of U.S. Catholic (Vol. 80, No. 11, page 18–23).