Penny Lincoln was pushing a shopping cart along 18th Street being towards Folsom Street when I saw her. I had seen some artisan loaves of bread nearby and told her about them. Penny, thinking I was also homeless, told me about a good place to get meals: Martin de Porres. 

We talked for a while, and I found out that she was from Mendocino, where her family lived, and she had been in San Francisco for a year or so, living on the street. I asked if I could take her photograph. She said yes, but with one condition. She wanted to decide how and where.

She did not want to be photographed with her shopping cart. Instead, she led me across the street and did a little dance in front of a blank wall. Penny gave us 40 seconds and it was over.

Photo by Joseph Johnston.

Follow Us

Joseph Johnston

When I walk out of the house, I only need to walk a block to encounter someone living on the street. Perhaps, in part, because I am a pre-Stonewall gay man, I have always had a special place in my heart for outsiders whether they are homeless, mentally challenged, or just unable to fit into the system. Recently a homeless man said to me “Most people see us as drunks, but you talk to us and see our humanity.”

Join the Conversation


Please keep your comments short and civil. Do not leave multiple comments under multiple names on one article. We will zap comments that fail to adhere to these short and very easy-to-follow rules.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Martin de Porres is an excellent place to get a hot meal if you are homeless. And an excellent place to volunteer. They treat people with dignity and respect. In the morning there are sometimes pateries. You are fed a hearty lunch of soup and bread. You can get some to go for your evening meal. There are lovely flowers on the table to enjoy. There is a yard with a garden where you can sit and rest and sun yourself. So many homeless are constantly being asked to move along that is such a relief to be able to sit quietly and get some sun. Wrap around services like harm reduction and medical services come for a visit and to attend to guests (as they are known). There is a place to receive mail, toiletries and changes of clothes. It is based on a movement called the Diggers. As a volunteer you are immediately put to good use. I was jobless and pretty depressed and helping others really gave me a sense of belonging and self worth.