Jaime Castillo is 53 years old. He is from La Libertad in El Salvador. Jaime came to the United States because the gangs in El Salvador threatened to kill him for being gay. Jaime talks less than Alberto—in part, perhaps, because he speaks only Spanish.

Alberto Soldado is 47. He was born in Puebla México. Alberto was from a poor family and gave up studying chemistry at the university when his mother became sick and was told she had only a year to live. His mother died the next year, followed by a sister, broken-hearted at the death of her mother. A younger brother had previously died of AIDS. So, Alberto left Mexico for the US.

At different times I heard others refer to Alberto and Jaime as los amantes, but I was unsure if they were open about their relationship, so I said nothing.

Then, a year ago, Alberto confided in me about their relationship. That was when we both began to speak freely about being gay. I told him about how I was married the second day Gavin Newsom had allowed gay people to marry. Alberto said that he and Jaime wanted to marry, but could not because Jaime did not have I.D.

What happened next surprised me. Jaime requested that I photograph the two of them kissing. It was rather an astounding photograph for two homeless Latino men, and not a photograph I would have asked of them. A month later, I took what has come to be my favorite photograph of homeless people, Jaime with his head on Alberto’s shoulder. What it shows, at least to me, is a deep affection between the two of them, an emotion we don’t readily associate with homelessness.

Alberto and Jaime. Photo by Joseph Johnston.
Alberto and Jaime with friends. Photo by Joseph Johnston.

The photographer: In his 70s, Joseph Johnston found his calling.

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...

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  1. This is fascinating to me because these guys are often hanging out drinking in an alley where I live. I’ve unfairly grouped them into the category of guys in the alley that annoy me because there are drugs and beer cans left every night. It’s helpful to know their stories because I will show them more respect now and perhaps engage them. I’m now curious about the stories of the other homeless I see in the Mission. Thank you!

    1. Thanks Bill for you comments. Rene who is not homeless but often hangs out with these men said something revealing recently “Other people see us as drunks, you see our humanity.” I have found no downside to talking to the homeless in my neighborhood. Generally they are appreciative that you take the time to acknowledge them. This is especially true of the homeless who are alone, not part of a group. J

  2. Joseph: Thank you so much for this honest portrait of the lives of these two men. I walk by this group of men often and I don’t get much closer than seeing what I choose to see: homeless latino men getting drunk. Next time, I will see something very different. You have changed my perspective with your open hearted determination for the truth.

  3. It means a lot to me that this profile might have changed how you see homeless people. I used to be afraid of homeless people on the street—fearful that they would want something of me. They are all part of humanity and should be treated with compassion. I started by learning their names, and listening to their stories. Thank you. Joseph

  4. Thank you for this article. I was one of the ignorant that dismissed them as drunk loud messy bums. But now I see them as people that probably has a story of how they all ended up there.

  5. I am familiar with those guys, having walked by them many times in the past when I’m on errands. (Due to the virus, when not in self isolation I use my car now). They have always greeted me, and we’ve spoken, as things used to be (and still are to some degree) in the inner Mission. Thank you for photos, and the story.

  6. I’m gay, but I fail to understand why the sexual orientation of these two provideS a free pass. If the queen of England repeatedly gets drunk, pees in the street and disturbs the peace, she’s still a public nuisance (even if she’s royalty or a dyke).

    1. Who said anything about a free pass? He is showing through photographs and his writing, a little about their past and emotions associated with them that we don’t think about since we default to thinking of them as a public nuisance and nothing more. Are they not more than that?

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