Photographer Daniel Troppy’s social media is filled with beautiful black and white images, but you won’t find selfies, beach vacations or conspicuous consumption. For the last several years, Troppy has been telling the stories of Intown’s homeless, encouraging viewers to get to know these often invisible people who live in our communities.
Troppy, who is also an entrepreneur and painter, goes out two or three times a week to interview, photograph and take supplies to homeless people around the city. He keeps a milk crate in the backseat of his car with socks, shampoo, toothpaste, body wipes, blankets and other necessities to hand out when he’s approached at intersections.
Late last year, Troppy and his friend Anne Cohen were out delivering supplies when they met a distressed woman named Cindy living in a tent city near a bridge. She was born with no feet, deformed hands and was also deaf. Cohen was able to communicate via sign language and learned that Cindy simply wanted to go home to her son in Monroe, GA. They bought the woman a hot meal and a bus ticket. Troppy is still in touch with Cindy and her son via Facebook.
“If we had not approached Cindy to find out her story and how we could help, I don’t know what would have happened to her,” Troppy said. “Part of what I’m trying to do on social media is raise more awareness on how people can approach the homeless and find out how they can help in their own way.”
Troppy said he is also trying to dismantle the stereotype of what homelessness is. “I am seeing more and more professional people who are homeless. I’ve met people working two jobs who are still homeless. With skyrocketing rents, 8 out of 10 people are priced out of their apartments and neighborhoods. There are more veterans and young people living on the streets. Homelessness has a new face.”
He met a couple living in their car who had lost their jobs in Chattanooga and had come to Atlanta in search of work. Since they don’t have a fixed address, employers won’t hire them.
“There is such a lack of resources – job assistance, mental health care, drug and alcohol recovery, access to basic healthcare. It perpetuates a cycle.”
He said the first step to helping the homeless is to look them in the eye and acknowledge them as a fellow human being. “ Society doesn’t acknowledge them. They feel forgotten. Look them in the eye and say hello and ask how they are. Go in a dollar store, invest $20 and buy toothpaste, socks, baby wipes and keep them your car to give to people in need when you see them. If you’re timid about approaching a homeless person alone, talk to your neighbors and go as a group.”
Troppy and his friend Nena Halford have joined forces to create a book and launch a nonprofit called YIMBY (Yes, In My Backyard), a play on NIMBY (Not In My Backyard), which often appears on community message boards to describe people who don’t want change or unpleasantness in their neighborhood. YIMBY’s slogan: Community Compassion for our Homeless Neighbors.
“Daniel didn’t anticipate the incredible response from people on social media,” Halford said. “They want to know how to help, where to send money, clothes and supplies. It’s very gratifying, but overwhelming. The nonprofit is a way to harness the response he’s gotten to the photography.”
Both Troppy and Halford described YIMBY as a grassroots effort and an attempt to create a movement. “The idea is to lead by example and become a resource center for those who want to help the homeless in their community,” Halford said.
Troppy said he’s been moved by the people he’s met and those who have reached out to him. He recently launched a GoFundMe account to raise money to buy a van to deliver more supplies to the homeless.
“I cannot think of a more purposeful way of spending my time than helping people in my own backyard,” he said.
Visit @danieltroppy on Instagram to see his photos and stories.