José Sanchez came to the United States when he was twenty-one. He is thirty-four years old, speaks mostly Spanish, and has been homeless for about ten years.  You can usually find Jose on 18th Street on the block between Mission and Capp Streets.

Slow, thoughtful and deliberate are words that describe José. When I gave him a photograph that I had taken of him, he looked at it intently for several minutes without saying anything. It felt like he had never seen a photograph of himself before.

When José looks for items in the several shopping carts and suitcases he keeps, he does so with slow deliberation, carefully contemplating each item he unpacks. I’ve watched him discover and consider a Charles Dickens novel and Huckleberry Finn, both in English. He never seems to find what he is looking for

Three of José’s brothers died in childhood. After his father left the family, he was raised by his mother in Nazca, a town south of Lima, Peru, named for one of Peru’s great pre-Hispanic civilizations, the Nazca, which flourished from 100 BC to about 750 AD. The Nazca produced incredible pottery and textiles but is most famous for the Nazca Lines, a series of enormous geometric designs or animals drawn on the desert floor, and visible only from the air.

Jose Sanchez. Photo by Joseph Johnston.

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. I don’t know why he came here. I believe he stays because he is incapable of doing anything else. He is extremely mentally ill. I have interacted with him many tines. He usually has a great deal of “property” strewn about the sidewalk covering quite a large area. Sometimes he rummages through it. Much of it is what any sane person would agree to be trash. I have seen police Officers speaking with him many times too, usually trying to offer him services like shelter but he always refuses. Sometimes they are responding to a local merchant or resident’s request to make the sidewalk around him passable. It’s a very sad situation.

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