In 2010, Seattle University’s Project on Family Homelessness invited a group of news organizations and independent journalists to participate in the Journalism Fellowships on Family Homelessness. Their mission was to explore in depth the issue of family homelessness in Washington state.
One of the Fellows was multimedia photojournalist Dan Lamont, who has worked for many publications, including Time, Newsweek and the New York Times. Using audio interviews and still photography, Lamont told the stories of often-overlooked homeless families in suburban and rural areas.
Corey & Kaylee
While on duty in Kuwait during the Iraq War, U.S. Marine Corey McKay, 21, received an emergency phone call from Child Protective Services back in his home town of Bellevue, Washington. His wife, long dissatisfied in their marriage, had had a breakdown. After neglecting their infant daughter Kaylee for weeks, she had thrown the baby’s clothes out the window and flushed her formula down the toilet.
McKay rushed home, and with no one else to care for his 3-month-old daughter, he was given a hardship discharge from the Marines. But with no job, no savings, plus the burden of caring for his mother who was suffering from a brain tumor, McKay soon ran out of resources and became homeless. By methodically leveraging the available help, McKay went from a family shelter to transitional housing and now is in permanent subsidized housing. He is caring for his daughter, attending college as a business major and has a stable relationship with a woman he met in the homeless shelter.
Jesse Morgan, 20, became pregnant with her first child, Tyrece, now 6, when she was a 14-year-old middle-schooler. Her second child, Austin, now 3-1/2, was born when she was 17. Morgan, who was living in Concrete, Washington, divorced her violent husband (not the father of her sons) and returned to her home town of Okanogan, Washington, where she and her sons live in shelter housing. Morgan has completed a GED, is studying criminal justice at the community college and competes in rodeo events.
Lewis Price, 27, and his wife, Aunika, are together trying to raise her four children from previous unions. They are homeless and having a very difficult time securing housing because of a criminal record associated with Price’s name — a record he says is a case of mistaken identity.
Darlene & Michael
After raising five children of their own, Darlene Burns (50) and her husband, Michael Burns (59), adopted three more children: Avrial, 17; her brother Justin, 6; and another brother, age 16. When the Nevada-based business they owned failed, they lost their home and moved to Colville, Washington to be near relatives. With the help of Rural Resources, an eastern Washington social service agency, the family is now getting back on their feet. The shelter house they occupy is furnished entirely from donations and scavenged items. Darlene is in school learning new skills and Michael has found part-time work as a health aide for a senior citizen.
Rhea Eaton, in her 50s and mother of eight children, became homeless in Colville, Washington after she left her husband, who had tried unsuccessfully to establish a homestead off the grid (without water or electricity, etc.) in the mountains of northeastern Washington State.
After living in an emotionally abusive situation, living in a car in a Walmart parking lot, Justine, 19 (last name withheld) and her 8-month-old daughter, Analiya, found shelter housing through Friends of Youth in Bothell, Washington. Justine is studying to be a nurse.