Photographer Tells Stories About The Homeless Through Pictures

4:15 PM, Jan 7, 2013   |    comments
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Written by Britney Milazzo (Democrat & Chronicle) 

Arleen Hodge has been photographing and helping the homeless for years. The bonds she has formed has created a second family for her.

A parking garage may be shelter from a storm, but it's also hard, damp, loud and brightly lit in the corner where Corky Parrilla tries to rest.

Getting any sleep is nearly impossible, Parrilla says, as "watching your back" is more important.

The homeless life, he says, is a wary existence: "You form a group with those around you, but you don't know what dangers are lurking in your area – animals, people, the weather. You fight for survival."

But sometimes – perhaps unexpectedly – someone else fights for you.

"When that one person goes out of their way to bring you an extra blanket, or just to say 'hi' like Arleen does," Parrilla says, "it warms your heart."

Arleen Hodge didn't grow up homeless, but the 44-year-old now calls Rochester's homeless her family. She's spent years living on the streets, dedicating her time to photographing urban decay.

After nine years, Hodge has made a name for herself in the city's homeless community. Giving them an artistic voice – and giving back – is her way of redeeming herself after a life that didn't turn out the way she wanted it to.

"I've dedicated my life to living on the streets to get a better understanding of the other side," said Hodge, who's also known as Arleen Deveto-Oliver.

"You see these people on the streets and think they're just a bum, until you experience sleeping with them first hand, and find out their lives and that these people are a mom, or a dad, a sister, brother and friend like everyone else," Hodge said. "I've built a trust with them that they may not have with anyone else."

Every week, Hodge visits a group of homeless men who have a special place in her heart. In a November snow flurry, Hodge brought the group a heater to keep warm. She laughed, joked, sat with them and made conversation to put smiles back on their faces.

"She's a very caring woman and helps us with a lot of basic things," John Klenotiz said. "We don't ask for none of this. She just does it out of the kindness of her heart, and we gladly accept."

Klenotiz, who has been homeless for more than six years, said he's known Hodge for two years and wishes there were more people like her.

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