Homeless but not Helpless, Thanksgiving Day 2011, Chicago, IL

Today is Thanksgiving Day 2011 in the United States.  I visited my homeless friend Oly to invite him to breakfast.  Here’s a photo of Oly on a warmer day in August.

Yashica Lynx 1000, Oly the Homeless Man, Kilbourn Park, Chicago, IL

Yashica Lynx 1000, Oly the Homeless Man, Kilbourn Park, Chicago, IL

Oly’s OK this Thanksgiving Day, how are you doing?

I had hoped to take Oly to breakfast but someone had already taken care of that for me.

He said earlier today a young man visited and gave him a warm jacket, a very warm sleeping bag, and a 20 dollar bill.  He walked 3 blocks to the McDonald’s at Addison and Cicero for a few donuts and coffee (Oly was grateful the McDonald’s is open today with its bathroom and food.)

We chatted about many things, his nifty shelter by the Addison bus stop, and reasons why he was grateful for life today.

Rich, I’m blessed.  There’s something special about this place.  People come by every day and are nice to me.

So here’s a homeless guy, it’s a chilly November day in Chicago, and he feels blessed.  How are you doing today?

So what does a Homeless Guy have to do with Film Cameras and Photography?

Good question, a fair question.  Here’s how I met Oly.

  1. Florida canoe trip.  In spring 2010 on a trip to Florida, my digital camera “drowned” in a small pool of water in the bottom of my canoe.  I needed a new one.
  2. Camera store.  Spring of 2010 I walked into a camera store to buy an inexpensive digital camera.  I found a wall of used film cameras re-igniting my love of cameras.
  3. What is a film camera.  I started a WordPress blog because I wanted to write about the old cameras I was collecting and my photos.
  4. Yashica Lynx 1000.  I purchased many cameras and one of them was a Yashica Lynx 1000.  On a Sunday morning in August 2011 I took a walk to Kilbourn Park in Chicago,IL to take some test photos with my camera.
  5. Meeting Oly.  On a Sunday I meet, introduce myself, and take photos of a homeless man named Oly.

So life is full of chained events.  A Florida canoe trip ultimately introduced me to Oly, the homeless man.

Let’s be serious.  I’m not a professional photographer nor a photojournalist.  I’m a 60 year old guy that enjoys old cameras, taking photos, meeting people, and telling their stories (camera stories and people stories).

Oly Gave me a Photo Assignment

Today, November 24, 2011, Oly was surprised I didn’t have a camera with me.

But Oly gave me a photo assignment for the next time I visit him.  I’ll do Oly’s photo project and write about it on this blog in the near future.

Happy Thanksgiving Day, 2011

I wished Oly a Happy Thanksgiving Day and I wished him better times in better days.  “God bless,” I said.

Happy Thanksgiving Rich.  Don’t worry about me.  I’m blessed.

Happy Thanksgiving Day from Chicago, IL USA.

Addendum:  February, 2012, Where’s Oly?

I lost track of my homeless friend:  Oleg Pichowkin

In late January (2012) I passed by Kilbourn Park and found Oly walking back and forth warming himself.  I invited him to lunch and we went to a McDonald’s.  He had been in the hospital for a week (lung problems) and had been released.  But he was still cheerful.  Although I remember him saying, “I wonder what God has planned for me.”

In early February his little tent at the Addison Street bus shelter at the north end of Kilbourn Park disappeared.  No tent, none of his belongings, no Oly.  I left word with someone who worked across the street to keep an eye out for Oly for me.  No luck.

I wondered if Oly in his weakened condition had passed away with the end of winter.

Addendum:  Memorial Day, 2012, Oly’s Alive

Walking in Kilbourn Park a few days after Memorial Day I saw a familiar white haired man in the distance.  It was Oly.  We smiled, laughed, shook hands.

Oly seemed healthier then ever.  He’s living in a homeless shelter in Uptown and I caught him on a supposedly momentous day.  He believes his paperwork battle with Social Security is over and he’s about to receive his first Social Security payment.

After a lifetime of work paying social security payments, Oly is about to get something in return:  a social security check.

After 30 minutes I said good-bye, Oly told me how to contact him, and yes he still has my cell phone number.  Seeing Oly was the best part of my day, May 30, 2012.

Canon SD880, May 2012, Oleg Pichowkin at Kilbourn Park

Canon SD880, May 2012, Oleg Pichowkin at Kilbourn Park


Homeless but not Helpless, Thanksgiving Day 2011, Chicago, IL — 5 Comments

  1. Hi Richard! Have you been in touch with Oleg recently? Our grandmother was his foster mother and we grew up with him as my uncle. We lost touch years ago and any mutual friends were either no longer in touch with him or had moved away. Please email us, as we would like to get in touch with him, as he’s family. Elena and Anna

    • Elena and Anna,

      How on earth did you find my blog post about Oleg?

      It was perhaps two years ago that I met Oleg (sorry, he told me his name was Oly). I gave him my mobile phone number but I have never heard from him.

      I’ll send you a private email to get his last name so I can search a bit for him in Chicago. The last I had heard, Oleg told me he had found permanent shelter or an apartment in the Uptown neighborhood of Chicago, IL.

      As I said, I’ll send you a private email outside my website.


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