Signs for the Homeless

An exchange project for homeless people
by artist Kenji Nakayama & Christopher Hope

The mission of signs for the homeless is to raise awareness and help for the homeless through exchanging hand painted signs, and sharing the narratives of the homeless around the World.

April 2013, Davis Square, Somerville, MA

Name: Jimmy Sunshine

Where are you originally from?
I was born in Massachusetts but raised in Delaware & parts of Pennsylvania. My family returned to Massachusetts almost 20 years ago where we lived in Malden, MA.

 How old are you?
  31 years old.

What was it like growing up?

My Dad was a salesman and my mother was a housewife. I have one younger sister. I had pretty hippy parents, which may be one of the reasons why I am homeless now. My parents had some radical ideas about life. When we owned a farm, my parents would take in homeless men and empower them by having them work for room and board. They would stay in our barn after doing chores like mowing the lawn, or other landscape work.

I remember on one occasion when we had at least six guys living in our barn. All of them eventually got back on their feet! These experiences at a young age were my first with the homeless. They later helped shaped my ideas of homelessness as an adult.

How long have you been homeless?

I have been homeless for four years.

How did you become homeless?

I used to have my own place in Malden , and worked by driving a forklift at a warehouse for meager wages. I just got sick of shelling out money and yet, I’d still be starving. I was working for very low wages, and eventually I thought to myself, “Instead of starving inside my apartment, why not eat like a King outside?”. I decided to start living on the street since March 2009 and have not looked back ever since.

How do you get through the cold winters?

I use one or two sleeping bags. Also, I try to find cover anywhere. My favorite location to sleep is under church doorways, because they tend to be safe. No one messes with you when you sleep under church doorways. They are a safe haven for me.

What is your biggest struggle being homeless?

I would say it is harassment from the police. The police consider me an “eye sore” in the community, so they give me a very hard time. In actuality, I probably do just as much good for the community as they do.  I know who the drug addicts, the rapists, the dealers, and the convicts are. I pray for them all in the streets, and I try to live by example as a Christian. I know several people out here whom I have helped change their lives for the better. God is awesome like that!

-C Hope

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