Listen to Shoeshine's story. Audio Producer: Sarah P. Reynolds
Listen to residents of the Tent City. Audio Producer: Sarah P. Reynolds

Shoeshine, a 54-year-old homeless man in Fresno, California, graduated from college with a degree in recreation. He worked for the L.A. City Recs and Parks but soon found himself in prison with a twenty-one and a half year sentence. After he finished his term, his criminal background made it difficult to find a job, and Shoeshine turned to cocaine. 15 days later, “I caught myself and said I didn’t want to go back down this road.” He entered a Salvation Army rehabilitation center, where he worked hard to pay his room and board and therapy costs. However, when he pulled a hernia, the center discharged him, leaving Shoeshine on the street. Realizing he was not a good panhandler – “I’m kind of sensitive to what people think or what they say” – he decided to pick up his old trade, which was shining shoes and cleaning tennis shoes. He now has 45 clients and is contemplating working on a shoe-stand. He calls Fresno “the jungle” and lives in a tent on the outskirts of a homeless shelter. And while he says “I’m crazy as fuck…come on man – how would you feel living down here in the tent?” he keeps going “full steam ahead.” “I’ve gotta keep moving forward.”

  • Yolanda Rodriguez lived in one of the tents lining F Street, part of a sprawling shantytown in Fresno, where homelessness is a chronic problem. She was pregnant at the time of this photograph.

  • This homeless man lived in his tent on F Street before the encampment was razed by the city.

  • Luis Sanchez, a 29-year-old who has been homeless since his teens.

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"Included in this group [the underrclass] are individuals who lack training and skills and either experience long-term unemployment or are not members of the labor force, individuals who are engaged in street crime and other forms of aberrant behavior, and families that experience long-term spells of poverty and/or welfare dependency."

- The Truly Disadvantaged: The Inner City, the Underclass, and Public Policy, by William Julius Wilson