It started as a way for artist Willie Baronet to assuage the guilt he felt when coming across a homeless person. Now, it's turned into a large art project that took Baronet across the country to 24 different cities in one month, making connections along the way.
In 1993, Baronet began to buy the handmade signs homeless people created asking for food, money, and help, to use in his artwork. Recently he decided to create a bigger project, called We Are All Homeless. Making his way from Seattle to New York City, Baronet purchased more signs and took photographs, which he might use one day to create a documentary. He asked the homeless to set their own prices, and Baronet ended up paying anywhere from $4 to $40 per sign.
He told NPR that some signs are funny — one said, "Family attacked by ninjas, need help getting karate lessons" — while others are grave. "They're really all over the place," he said. "We've only been to one city, that was Detroit, where not a single sign we bought was humorous."
As Baronet passes through the different cities, he sees the way the homeless are treated not only by residents but by the local government. He hopes that his new project leads to more understanding and respect. "It's not us and them, it's just us," he said. "I used to think they were different than I am, and I think a lot of us are just one or two bad decisions away from being right in the same place." --Catherine Garcia