Justin Doering, a graduate from Boise State University, is validating the phrase “A picture’s worth a thousand words” with his new project, Fifty Sandwiches.
The initiative, which Doering told The Atlantic was “partly inspired by Humans of New York,” is an attempt to both feed and encourage homeless people in America to share their stories.
“The plan is to toss the mattress in the van and travel the country to try to capture the experiences and stories behind the homeless population in the United States to show that there isn’t just one kind of homelessness,” Doering told The Atlantic’s associate editor Bourree Lam.
The Humans of New York effect seems to have struck a cord with audiences around the globe. Judging by the success of founder Brandon Stanton’s book and Facebook page that boasts more than 17 million likes, photos of regular people sharing their personal anecdotes are relatable on an extremely large-scale platform.
While certainly not everyone will be able to relate to the experience of being homeless, it is my hope that the power and raw emotion that stories hold will influence audiences to make a donation in an attempt to combat homelessness.
Doering undoubtedly shares this same hope, especially as he has paid careful consideration to the gravity of the homelessness epidemic in this country. A recent study done by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development indicated that “more than half a million Americans are homeless on any given night. HUD counted 1.5 million people who used a shelter in 2014, and then there are those who are crashing at a friend’s house or sleeping on the street.”
Ideally, Fifty Sandwiches will help to make such staggering numbers more manageable in the minds of people who genuinely want to help. By taking the unique stories of different people, it gives a palpable face, name and story to the plight of homelessness.
Doering told The Atlantic that “he’s been struck by how ‘incredibly unique and distinct’ each of their stories are, and that transcribing them ‘has been emotional.’”
As of now, the project has a digital presence on both Kickstarter and WordPress. The Kickstarter page encourages individuals to make donations to support the project itself. So far, Doering has 85 backers who have donated a collective $4,570 of their $10,000 goal.
The WordPress page serves as the platform for all of the photos and stories of the interviewees. As of now, Doering has one completed interview on the site, which details the story of Matthew, a 36-year-old from Boise, Idaho.
His story is riveting, and I felt almost immediately compelled to make a donation to the project because I strongly believe that more stories, similar and dissimilar to his, need to be shared.