Let’s talk about Eugene Moore for a bit. Eugene is 60 years old. He’s been homeless for about 20 years, was born in West Palm Beach, but raised in Overtown and Liberty City. While growing up, he would spend some time in Wrens, Georgia. He dropped out of school in 7th grade. His parents didn’t pay close attention to him and considers himself to be self-raised. At 18 years old, while still living at home in Overtown, his family, along with hundreds of other families, had to abruptly move out of their home to make room for the I-95. They relocated to Liberty City. Eugene still remembers the address: 746 NW 61st street. He said the environment there was tense. After a couple of years in Liberty City, he left home and headed back to Overtown. He wanted to be closer to downtown. When asked why, he answered “you know it’s the stomping grounds.”
Eugene has suffered much from unemployment throughout his life. He said he tried making money on his own by washing cars, cutting grass, and selling produce. Ultimately, a hostile political and social environment compounded with a lack of education led to his plight. He has a lucid mind and a surprisingly broad vocabulary. Today, Eugene is in a wheel chair. He suffers from Rheumatoid arthritis. When asked what he does when a hurricane hits, he quickly answered “hang loose”. No rides. Little help. Hang loose. When asked where he sleeps at night, he said “I move around”. When asked why, he responded “ I don’t know who’s watching me. I don’t want others to know what I do and where I go. Its dangerous.”
Recently, while running a street photography mission, I saw him with a bunch of young thug-looking men on a street corner. When questioned about them, he quickly talked in a warning-like manner. I wanted to know if they were approachable, and to increase my understanding, he compared them to “wolves” and described them as “unpredictable” and “stuck on stupid.” He says they are misguided and many of their parents are kids. He continued to say that he has witnessed “bad things” that he can never speak of. His words open a window into the dark side of the city.
Eugene is one of thousands of seemingly phantom members of society. They roam around without cease and live off of the decency and scraps of others. Their world is dangerous, uncertain, dirty, pitiless, and their existence is barely noticed. They wander amid the shadows and alleys of our buildings. Our trash is their sustenance. Our streets are their bathrooms. Our pocket change is their compensation. Our attention is their best hope. Eugene’s story is but the first.
Post Script: The quotations used in this article were taken from excerpts of a Boom or Bust tape recorded interview with Mr. Eugene Moore.