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Poverty
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North America
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Homelessness, USA, Seattle, Washington State
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Homeless in Seattle (2006-2008) is a documentary about the diverse and growing homeless community in the photographer's home town of Seattle, Washington. 
Matthew Lutton

2007 — student award of excellence

Homeless in Seattle (2006-2008) is a documentary about the diverse and growing homeless community in the photographer's home town of Seattle, Washington. In 2006, as the US economy began to weaken and security nets gave way, many more Americans moved to the brink of housing insecurity. The number of people utilizing shelters, food banks and eventually tent cities exploded. This project began as a collaboration with local charity organizations who were directly supporting the needs of the homeless and unemployed populations, but developed in to a more personal essay over time as Lutton became closer friends with some of the people he met. The final result was an exhibition at Seattle City Hall in 2008, completed with the support of grants like the Alexia Foundation.

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Marlowe, a transplant from Atlanta, GA, sits in her apartment at the transitional housing center "Santos Place" in the Sand Point neighborhood of Seattle. The center occupies former officer housing at a retired naval base. Matthew Lutton/Alexia Foundation
An East African immigrant and her son receive a housing voucher for a couple of nights stay at a motel from a staff member of the ROAR (Referrals, Opportunities, Advocacy and Resources) of Washington. Matthew Lutton/Alexia Foundation
Marsha lives in a small tent community on a hillside near the Queen Anne neighborhood of Seattle. She has been homeless for over ten years, and in my ten minutes with her drank two beers and smoked half a pack of cigarettes, right after waking up at 10:30am.

Tent communities, often in greenbelts inside of Seattle's neighborhoods, are a hidden and vibrant community for the men and women who cannot - or choose not - be part of the mainstream economy. A new initiative launched by Mayor Greg Nichols' office in 2008 legalizes "encampment sweeps" which would, with little notice, wipe away these campsite communities with the goal of putting people in shelters. Critics challenge that there are not enough beds to begin accept these new clients. Matthew Lutton/Alexia Foundation
A man packs his bike with his belongings before leaving his hillside campsite near Queen Anne. This area, a mile from the main downtown corridor, was a popular site for homeless encampments before the city enacted more stringent rules on camping and began "sweeps" of campsites. September 2006. Matthew Lutton/Alexia Foundation
Birds fly along the Seattle skyline from Victor Steinbrueck Park next to the famous Pike Place Market. This park is a favorite hangout for homeless men and women, and is a rampant spot for drug sales. Matthew Lutton/Alexia Foundation
Tyron Gamble, right, gets advice from a "veteran" of the Seattle streets. Gamble had just arrived in Seattle on a bus ticket provided by the State of Florida, where he was just released from penitentiary. Matthew Lutton/Alexia Foundation
Michelle, on the streets after being kicked out of her subsidized apartment with her husband after complaining about unsafe conditions, investigates an abandoned paper bag for "food or money", explaining that in her circumstance, she cannot afford to let go of even the slightest chance that someone left something valuable behind. Matthew Lutton/Alexia Foundation
Mats at the Union Gospel Mission in the Pioneer Square neighborhood of Seattle, an hour before the shelter opens its doors. UGM is one of the most notorious shelters in the city, known widely in the homeless community for its rough and dangerous crowd of downtown clients. Matthew Lutton/Alexia Foundation
Tyron Gamble, recently released from Florida State Penitentiary, arrived in Seattle via cross-country bus paid for by the state of Florida. While trying to get his life in order and avoid the bad influences in his home state he landed in Seattle in search of a stable place to readjust to life without drugs and violence. This transition was tough for Gamble, who struggled to balance clean life at the City Team Ministries Shelter and the insatiable pull of hard drugs in other parts of town. For the few weeks I was able to stay in contact with Gamble, he see-sawed between sobriety and an addict's life in Pioneer Square. Matthew Lutton/Alexia Foundation
A man leaves City Team Ministries into a late-winter rain storm after the free community dinner. City Team serves food to more people than it can house and on any given night there are a dozen or more men turned away. Matthew Lutton/Alexia Foundation