The homeless couple who fell in love in the shadow of Silicon…
These photos turned into a project: three cities – named after the places that Bascom Avenue connects – showing how crazy the whole “situation in Silicon Valley” is. Tensions between how expensive the area is, tech company employees who drive up prices, and a growing number of homeless people, many of whom also work full-time. “There is a working people charity here called the Safe Parking Program,” Niall explains. “You have to have a job to apply for this, this is for working people who can’t afford rent so they have a safe place to stay in their cars. It’s crazy you have teachers and nurses living in their cars because they can’t afford the rent. I met a guy at a donut shop one day and he commented on my camera and we started chatting about all this safe parking. He’s like, “It’s funny that you mentioned it, because I think about it myself.” He worked as a bus driver at a local college. He had just gone through a divorce and was going to live in his car.”
One morning, a new inspiration came: “I was looking at this alley at the end of my apartment building from the balcony,” says the Irish photographer. “And I saw a homeless man there. This was a guy I used to see in the alley, and he also sang for money at Whole Foods. So when he looked at me and waved, I said, “Hey, do you want breakfast?” And I just went and had breakfast with a guy. It turns out that his name was Blake, and he decided to become homeless – he deliberately hid from the network. He was such a smart person—really smart and eloquent, and I started taking pictures of him when we became friends.” three cities the photo and film project became more than a story about a road and a class divide.
As O’Brien and Blake’s friendship began to deepen, his new pal met a woman named Dana and they fell in love – Niall captured their burgeoning relationship and growing dependence on each other. “Dana had a serious addiction problem,” explains O’Brien. “Psychologically, she was in a very sad place – we once visited the grave of her child – it was quite difficult. But it was pretty amazing to get to know both of them.”