When Baltimore was chosen as the inaugural location for Hotel RL, the number one mission was to put our best foot forward as we moved into our new neighborhood. A creative city that values hard work and community, Baltimore never backs down from anything. The moment we entered Charm City, we immediately felt at home and got to work devising a plan to make the city a better place to work and visit. From these planning sessions, Project Wake Up Call was created.
Established in 1985, Health Care for the Homeless works to prevent and end homelessness for vulnerable individuals and families by providing quality, integrated health care and promoting access to affordable housing and sustainable income through direct service, advocacy, and community engagement. The organization delivers pediatric, adult and geriatric medical care; mental health services; social work and case management; addiction treatment; dental care; vision assistance; HIV services; outreach; services; supportive housing; and access to education and employment for thousands of Baltimore residents.
Ian Tong is a New York-based photographer originally from Hong Kong. With over 15 years in the industry, his experience encompasses a wide range of commissioned and personal photographic work. A series of personal projects currently keeps him busy, taking him to memorable locales such as Stockholm and Shanghai.
Tong’s personal work is concerned with environmental and societal issues that has been recognized regularly and featured in various competitions. His work has been selected for the prestigious American Photography annuals 27, 28 and 30. Also of particular note is his inclusion in the Aperture Foundation 2014 summer open exhibition.
Ian has a BA from the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada and a MFA degree from Pratt Institute, New York, NY.
To bring the Project Wake Up Call initiative to life, urban photographer, Ian Tong, was tasked with creating a photo series that uncovered the living situation of the homeless community in Baltimore.
A lone man standing outside the place where he lives. Two signs reading "What have you done to change your community?" and "REAL is to keep it 100 Reasons Everyone Appreciates Life" are subtexts that reveal the irrepressible strength of hope and the desire for change.
This tent in broad daylight within the encampment community stands in contrast to the fresh snow and leads one to wonder about the individual who makes this his or her home.
Townhouses along W. Franklin St and North Carey near Harlem Square Park. The X’s on the boarded up windows are posted by the city fire department to indicate structural or interior hazards in vacant buildings. The haunting glow of the condemning X's and the eerie streetlights bring a sense of mystery to this backdrop of broken and abandoned buildings.
Tattered belongings of the homeless against a graffiti background bring a sense of humanity to the stark white of the snow and colorless concrete.
This abandoned house stands in bold contrast to the perfectly blue sky and pristine white snow.
Boarded-up townhouses along W. Franklin St and North Carey near Harlem Square Park, delicately framed by branches under the moonlight.
“Working to photograph the homeless in DC for PWUC has been an engaging and revealing experience for me. As we go about our daily routines, often we are unaware of how fortunate we are in our own lives. In the past, DC had a reputation for urban blight and rough neighborhoods. On the whole, that is mostly gone, in its place I found a city that was revitalized with many different and vibrant neighborhoods. Yet despite these changes, I saw a large homeless population; people who were either living on the streets or in shelters.
Travelling around DC with my assistant, we talked to many of these individuals and I asked to photograph them. While some declined, many were open to being photographed and willing to talk to us about their experience of living without a home. Life on the streets was a struggle but was easier during the mild and warm months. With numerous parks and outdoor areas in DC, there are plenty of places to hang out and pass the time. As winter approached though, many expressed the coming need to access indoor shelter.
There are a number of shelters and food pantries in DC and they form an important part of the support system for the homeless. As I travelled around the city, we learnt that many of the homeless follow a particular routine. For instance, people we met in the evening, we would meet again the next day as they travelled to the food kitchen or library across town. (image of buildings with graffiti)
We met people who had touching stories and unfortunate situations. Some lost their jobs, some suffered health issues and some were recovering addicts. We saw that many of these individuals stayed in groups for friendship, safety, and support. This experience has made me more aware of the daily struggles the homeless face. It is not an easy struggle but I am hopeful for many of the individuals I met.”
Housed in downtown Baltimore's historic Keyser Building, Hotel RL was built for locals and visitors alike. The lobby, conceived as a creative hub, hosts live music, talks from distinguished individuals, art shows and other artistic endeavors. Associates pride themselves on being local experts and active members of the community. Project Wake Up Call is one of many ways the Hotel RL team plans to accomplish this goal.