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PHOTOS: Baltimore's homeless men make their own shelters from doors and milk crates

Thousands of people remain homeless in the city and compounding the issue is their fear of staying in shelters provided by the city.

ACCORDING TO RECENT reports in Baltimore, the problem of homelessness in the city is “intractable”.

Thousands of people remain homeless and compounding the issue is their fear of staying in shelters provided by the city.

Makeshift homes, some made from used materials such as doors and milk crates, began to crop up a few years ago but authorities took action against them. They claimed that the camps, located in woods and under bridges, were dangerous to those residing in them.

During the spring of 2011, social security administration software engineer Ben Marcin began a photography project with a focus on the plight of Baltimore’s homeless.

On finishing the day job, he would head to the woods to photograph people who have fallen through America’s safety net.

Over the course of a year, Marcin stalked through the area, meeting homeless people and seeing where they called home. When he returned 12 months later, he found all of the dwellings were gone.

“This was their last stand,” Marcin told Business Insider in a recent interview.

Many of them were on their way out. If they had anywhere else to go, they’d be there.

While Marcin’s project ended in 2011, homelessness and the makeshift camps have remained a chronic issue in the Baltimore area, leading to the establishment of The Journey Home, a 10-year program seeking to end the problem in Baltimore.

Marcin shared some photos of the homes and you can see the rest at his website. Marcin is running a new project on America’s new urban high-rises at the Detroit Center of Contemporary Photography.


Marcin came across the first homeless settlement he encountered while hiking in the wilderness surrounding and in Baltimore.


The more he explored, the more camps he found. Because Baltimore’s numerous green spaces are rarely used, homeless people found them an ideal place to set up camp.


Most of the homeless people live in tents or under tarps, which they buy from Walmart or Target.


Some of the homeless even have jobs but simply cannot afford, or be approved for, a house or apartment.


Others move into the wilderness to avoid Baltimore’s homeless shelters, saying that it is “safer” for them to be in the woods.


“Most of these guys were not muscular guys. They were smaller, a little bit off the wall, and afraid of getting assaulted at the shelter,” says Marcin.


Some of the camps are more permanent. This homeless man made his structure completely out of doors.


This man used milk-crates to make his structure. Marcin says that those with more permanent homes tended to be more meticulous about creating their space.


This ex-felon collected numerous amenities, including a grill and weights for exercise.


This man even built an outhouse bathroom.


Most of the camps are less elaborate. Many only have a dirty mattress and use a tree for shelter.


Most of the homeless leave in the winter to head south for warmer weather.


Many of the camps are set up near the railroad tracks, so they can easily hop on a train to leave. Others are along the water, under bridges, or around Interstate 495.


The majority of the camps are so deep in the woods that, if things went bad, it wouldn’t be easy to call for help.


This man was the only one who claimed to stay year-round, having been in the same shack for four years. He had a propane tank and a grill inside for cooking and warmth. When Marcin returned a year later, he found the shack burned down.


According to Marcin, the majority of the homeless camp far away from other homeless. When others do come upon their area, they tend to be very territorial.


All of the original settlements that Marcin photographed have since been either abandoned or destroyed.


The city routinely bulldoze the homeless camps when they find out where they are.


Camps continue to sprout up in different areas.

Kate Briddell, the director of homeless services at the Baltimore Mayor’s office, told the Baltimore Sun recently that new camps and tents have formed near Interstate 83. They are currently discussing a plan for how to deal with the new camps.

All images: Ben Marcin

With reporting by Sinéad O’Carroll

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