Framework

Capturing the world through photography, video and multimedia

The first thing Jonathan does when he wakes up on the street is reach for a marijuana pipe. "You see those houses on the hill?" he said, "I'm a have one of those one day."

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Christina House / For The Times

Jonathan, 21, gets dressed after showering at the Jeff Griffith Youth Center, a Hollywood drop-in center operated by the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center. He said he had more than 20 placements between the time he was removed from his parents' home at 5 and aged out of the foster care system at 18.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Christina House / For The Times

Outreach specialist Juan Altamirano, left, and health educator Billy Garcia drive through Hollywood in search of homeless gay and transgender youth.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Christina House / For The Times

A homeless youth walks through the clothing closet at the Jeff Griffith Youth Center, a Hollywood drop-in center operated by the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center. The facility also offers meals, counseling, job hunting assistance, and training for the high school equivalency test.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Christina House / For The Times

Homeless youths use computers at the Jeff Griffith Youth Center, a Hollywood drop-in center operated by the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Christina House / For The Times

Christopher, 22, straightens up his apartment in Hollywood. Homeless for two years, he is now has a job dispensing yogurt and a home of his own.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Christina House / For The Times

Christopher passes time reading in between serving customers at a Pinkberry in Hollywood.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Christina House / For The Times

AJ, left, 23, and his boyfriend Alex, 21, share a kiss in a West Hollywood park where they sometimes sleep at night.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Christina House / For The Times

Alex and AJ, right, relax in a park one night. They nap here until the park closes, then move into the bushes, where they won't be seen while they sleep.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Christina House / For The Times

Alex, left, and AJ lean against each other as an older couple passes by in a West Hollywood park. It is a favorite spot; the restrooms are open late, and there are friendly neighbors who stop to chat while walking their dogs.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Christina House / For The Times

AJ smokes a cigarette in the shadows of a tree at a park. "If I could be invisible, I would," he said. "I feel ashamed to admit that I'm homeless."

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Christina House / For The Times

AJ, right, rests his eyes as he lies next to Alex. He said the scratches on his face are from a drunken night when he was struck by a car.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Christina House / For The Times

AJ, left, and Alex hold hands while looking for a shelter operated by a mental health center. Alex had wanted AJ to take the only available bed. But AJ dismissed the suggestion, saying the more reticent Alex would not cope alone on the streets. "If you love somebody, you take care of them, right?" says AJ on a later date. "It would've hurt really bad to see Alex on the street and me inside."

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Christina House / For The Times

AJ takes a cigarette break on the sidewalk with his stolen goods: a roasted chicken, a bottle of vodka and a bag of candy for his boyfriend Alex.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Christina House / For The Times

AJ and his friend Ricky, 21, right, try to bum cigarettes off a vendor in Hollywood.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Christina House / For The Times

AJ checks out the scratches on his face in his boyfriend's mirror in Hollywood.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Christina House / For The Times

Alex, right, tries to lift AJ, who had fallen over drunk in Hollywood. Their belongings wait in a shopping cart.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Christina House / For The Times

AJ and Alex chat across the street from the shelter.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Christina House / For The Times

On another night, Alex, left, and AJ found cots at New Image, a Los Angeles homeless shelter.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Christina House / For The Times

Alex and AJ kiss goodnight outside the shelter.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Christina House / For The Times

A lonely and distraught AJ bursts into tears after breaking his bottle of vodka. "What do I have to live for?" he asked.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Christina House / For The Times

AJ searches for a lighter in his toiletries bag. He moved under a bridge to be closer to Alex, who is staying in a nearby shelter.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Christina House / For The Times

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‘Gay and homeless': How the story was reported

Times contract photographer Christina House spent a month shooting pictures for a story about homeless gay youths in Los Angeles County.

Two of her subjects, AJ and his boyfriend Alex, became the focus of the story by Los Angeles Times staff writer Alexandra Zavis about the dangers and difficulties of being homosexual and living on the streets.

Zavis reported that, every year, hundreds of gay youths end up alone on the streets of Los Angeles County, where they make up a disproportionate share of at least 4,200 people younger than 25 who are homeless on any given day.

The couple welcomed the journalists into their lives as they began to trust them. Zavis and House spent many hours shadowing them on the streets of Hollywood, Los Angeles and West Hollywood.

Sometimes catching up with them proved to be challenging because they were on the move and didn’t have access to a telephone or Internet. Meetings were occasionally arranged through e-mail or Facebook. When House did find them, she stuck with them for up to eight or nine hours at a time.

While she was with her subjects, House did her best to blend into their lives. “Spending a lot of time with my subjects was key to gaining such intimate access into their lives,” she said. “The more time I spent with them, the more comfortable they became with me being around and the easier it was for me and my camera to disappear, allowing for real moments to happen.”

Being witness to such moments can be difficult as well. One night when AJ was alone on the streets, lonely and distraught, he chose to drink his misery away.  “At one point, he fell to the ground and spoke about giving up on life,” House said. “I had seen him on previous nights sober, articulate and proud of his job history and his relationship with Alex. To see this other side was heartbreaking.”

House and Zavis met AJ and Alex through the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center in Hollywood, which asked that The Times grant anonymity by not using their full names or showing their faces. Also included in the story “Gay and homeless: In plain sight, a largely hidden population” were a 21-year-old man named Jonathan who had lived in foster care as an adolescent and Christopher who now has a job and a home after being homeless for two years.

4 Comments

  1. December 25, 2010, 3:48 am

    nuh-uh…over-cover is, at best, voyersim and, more llikely, a cause of distortion.

    j

    By: nuj
  2. December 26, 2010, 5:24 pm

    Wonderful reportage! Thank you so much.

    By: lynnriordan@mac.com
  3. December 26, 2010, 10:07 pm

    This series seems more about exploitation than any sort of pictoral social critique. A kiss? really? The series could just as easily been called "Homeless and Straight". Does the sexuality of someone down on their luck and living rough really matter? From what I can see, poverty is extremely egalitarian.

    By: L.A. Reader
  4. December 27, 2010, 8:45 am

    C'mon guys — the story was good, but this is not "news".

    By: P. Lippman

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