"I'd work right now if I could," Gallagher said. "A lot of homeless people feel that way. It's all circumstances." Photo by Daniel Badhwa
Although adversity has been fond of Steve Gallagher and stability has been a rare occurrence, he does have at least one reliable element in his life. Five years ago, Gallagher adopted Kahn, a wolf mix who was the runt of his litter.
“I'm really close to Kahn,” said Gallagher. “He's a person to me. I wouldn't give him up for a place to live. I consider him my family. He goes everywhere with me.”
Kahn was given to Gallagher by the breeder, who thought he wouldn't survive. Gallagher was told that if Kahn lived, he could have him. Gallagher proceeded to nurse Kahn to health and developed a strong bond with the dog.
Gallagher, 63, moved to Duluth in 2005 after an abuse filled past. Being homeless in Duluth, Gallagher had the opportunity to go to shelters that were available to the displaced. However, after Gallagher was given Kahn, he could no longer turn to the shelters.
According to Matt Traynor, a worker at CHUM, many shelters do not allow animals to spend the night, although they may be permitted for a short time during the day.
Gallagher said he and his companion were then left to fend for themselves, and find a way to survive, in a city that makes him feel like it's criminal to be homeless,
"Kahn pulls his own weight," said Gallagher, who named him after Genghis Khan.
If you don't see us we don't exist.
The words written across cardboard outside City Hall spoke for the homeless community and have become a motto for Gallagher.
“This homeless situation is really bad,” Gallagher said. “We need a homeless bill of rights. It's almost like it's illegal to be homeless.”
Gallagher said there needs to be a solution to the problem, not simply temporary Band-Aids. He said he is sick of the constant harassment of the homeless, who are simply trying to survive. He believes that a movement for a homeless bill of rights isn't any different from any other equal rights movement. He said homeless people need to be treated with more dignity.
"We're still people," he said.
Because of Gallagher and Kahn's situation, they were forced to find alternative means of shelter.
“I spent two weeks on the beach,” Gallagher said. “I didn't set up a tent because I knew they'd get me for sleeping on the beach.”
After stormy weather, Gallagher was forced to set up a tent. Almost immediately, the police showed up and told him he needed to leave.
“Why can't we sleep on the beach?” Gallagher said. “I wasn't bothering anyone. Matter of fact, I was picking up trash from parties on the beach. It's ridiculous.”
Frustrated, Gallagher searched to stay elsewhere. With nowhere to go, Gallagher was forced to find places where he could hide for the night, since he could be ticketed if he was caught sleeping outside.
“If it were up to me, I'd find a place and make it all right for people to stay there,” Gallagher said. “It would solve a lot of problems if there was more of those places. They don't want us to be seen, so give us a place where we don't have to be seen.”
With the recent city-council election, Gallagher hopes there will finally be some long-awaited change. Gallagher said he's sick of political talk. He wants to see action and for something to change in the community. The best way to do that, according to Gallagher, is to venture into the community and talk to the homeless. He said this would give the people whose lives will be effected by decisions made in government an opportunity to have their voices heard. Gallagher believes this is something that seems like common sense, but isn't done often enough.
"Everyone is wrapped up in making money and their problems," Gallagher said. "Everyone has problems."
Currently, Gallagher says he's simply trying to get his life together. After years of not having somewhere to stay, he was finally able to find a home at Greysolon Plaza where he is set to move in a few weeks from now.
One of Gallagher's early life situations was living at the Dozier School for Boys, where he and many other children were abused. There is currently a lawsuit against the school, which is located in Marianna, Fla. For more information on the situation click here.
All photos by Daniel Badhwa.