An Invitation To See The Faces Of People Who Are Unhoused: Kelly And Ron

couple wearing winter clothing holding a sign which says 'anything is an absolute blessing'
Kelly and Ron photo by Steve McKenzie is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0 Deed

Meet Ron and Kelly. can make this introduction thanks to the fine work of Steve McKenzie, a portrait photographer. Steve’s portraits come with notes:

‘Ron and Kelly were sitting on the northwest corner of Clark and Madison. They’ve been out here since April 2019. Ron was in a wheelchair, due to cellulitis in his legs. “I’m a tall guy, so I’m used to standing and walking around”. His condition has gotten worse, so they’re going to get him treatment soon. They were storing some of their items in a hidden place in the alley, but someone found it and took everything.

“They took everything but our pillow”, Kelly said. So now they need clothes and other necessities.

“When it gets really cold, we’ll sleep on the train”, Ron said, “but last night we slept over there, in the doorway of St. Mary’s Church.” Then Kelly added, “it was suprisingly warm over there”.

To keep warm, they’ll go into ATM vestibules from time to time. “But then security comes in and tells us we have to leave. One lady called the cops on us and said she didn’t feel safe getting money, with us in there. At the time it was raining and snowing, “so the cop was on our side”, Ron said, because the policeman knew why they were in there.

“Just because we’re homeless doesn’t mean we’re bad people”, Kelly said. Right now, they’re working with Heartland Alliance to find jobs.

Ron said, “they’re helping us with resumes and job interviews”. Kelly added, “but we don’t tell them we’re homeless”, for fear that they won’t be hired because of that. It was a pleasure talking with them and hearing their story. I’ll be seeing them again… ‘ was inspired to share Steve’s portraits after reading a commentary by Jennifer Gerlach in Psychology Today1. Ms Gerlach encourages us to experience the humanity that is so obvious in the faces of people who are unhoused. Steve’s portraits give us all an opportunity to follow Jennifer Gerlach’s invitation.


  1. You can read Jennifer Gerlach’s commentary here: A Person With a Face, Unhoused on a Cold Winter Night