'I Have a Name' project photographs homelesness in Phoenix

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

PHOENIX -- A Valley man is using the power of photography to raise awareness about homelessness on the streets of Phoenix.

His project started with a camera and a question.

“I said, ‘my name is Jon; I should know yours,'" Jon Linton recalled asking a homeless man who then started to weep.

"He said ‘you have no idea how long it’s been since someone has cared to ask me who I am; we’re like America’s forgotten, the walking invisible.'"

Linton has spent the past several years capturing countless images of homeless, which he began sharing through social media, with the title, "I Have a Name."

"The [YouTube] video I put up, in seven days, had literally 30,000 people who saw it; I started getting phone calls," said Linton. "We’ve had an outpouring of support from the community."

What’s started online will soon go up on the walls of {9} The Gallery on Grand Avenue in Phoenix.

For gallery owner Laura Dragon, the show is personal.

"I was homeless for about two years," said Dragon. "The sad thing is when you are homeless, when you’re in that place, you’re not really thinking how do I become un-homeless; you’re thinking how do I survive."

Dragon who has since rebuilt her life said she now tries to give back at any opportunity.

The message she and Jon Linton hope to share is the importance of understanding.

"We’re hopeful that compassion is the thing that folks take away, a bi-product of looking at this [show]."

"Through whatever circumstances life has brought [the homeless], they’re still humans; they’re still people, part of our community," said Dragon.

From Phoenix, Linton hopes to take the show around the country, as well as make the pictures into a book. {9} The gallery will also be collecting shoes and book bags for the homeless.

Linton said the project is also working with Central Arizona Shelter Services (CASS).

The "I Have a Name Project" will go on display Friday, Dec. 6, at {9} The Gallery, 1229 Grand Avenue.

The images will remain at the gallery through December.

Facebook: The I Have a Name Project