Joe and I met in a parking lot. I parked there every morning for my workout across the street and he liked to hang out there, so we gradually built up a nice little friendship. One morning, I asked him if he needed anything and he asked me for two very specific things: to create a digital map of locations where he could find resources like shelters, meals, and free internet and to attend a Universal Human Rights Initiative meeting led by a local human rights advocate where residents, city officials and unhoused individuals meet for meaningful dialogue. The specificity of his request blew me away at the time, but it makes a lot more sense to me now. Joe thinks big. And looking back, I appreciate that he told me exactly what he needed instead of me just guessing or making an assumption.
Because I am part of the Local Guides community, I knew how to make customized lists on Google Maps that chart locations on the map, which you can edit, publish and share with friends so I started making maps right away like the ones Joe envisioned. Almost a year later, we've spent dozens of hours together and gotten to know each other and usually chat over coffee on a curb somewhere. And although we have different perspectives on a lot of things, we've established a comfortable equilibrium that carries us from one conversation to the next. No matter what, I know we'll always have a fascinating conversations.
Here are 10 things about Joe I'd like you to know:
1. Joe is a photographer
He's a talented wildlife photographer and beautifully captures everything from flowers in bloom to hawks stalking their prey on the bluffs. He dreams of a day where his work can be featured in a local art gallery.
2. Joe is a consultant
He's educated me and consulted with me on a number of issues, including his inability to go into stores without discrimination, difficulty getting internet access, constant threats of violence, limited access to proper healthcare, and the horrors he's witnessed on the streets. He's spoken at length on the many shortcomings of city projects, including the widely publicized Project Roomkey. It's impossible to provide a solution until we can truly understand the complexities of the problem and attempt to address them while preserving human dignity. And Joe has taught me a lot a