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August 7, 2014

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Kim with her father, 1988

Honolulu-based photographer Diana Kim had been sharing the stories of the city’s homeless community for years when she recognized her own father, then estranged from the family, sitting in a makeshift shelter of cardboard boxes.

Kim’s father had left the family when she was a child, and she spent much of her youth moving from one place to the next, seeking shelter with extended family. She received occasional news of her father from her grandmother, who indicated that over the years, his schizophrenia had advanced. She no longer knew where he was.

The photographer, currently a law student, is the founder of The Homeless Paradise, a platform devoted to giving voice to people whose circumstances have left them without shelter, and her father has become both a subject and her collaborator. When she first happened upon her dad, Kim held back for a moment to take him in: he was much thinner than she had remembered him, and he wore soiled clothing. People walked past him without a second glance. When she called to him, a passerby suggested she not trouble herself with trying to connect to him; she wouldn’t get a response.

For two years, the daughter visited her father in that same spot where he stayed day after day. She’d see him on her way home from work, and after she had laid her own children to bed, she drove out to see him. At first, he didn’t show any signs of identifying and remembering his daughter. She brought him clothes, tried to move him, requested that he get help, but much of the time, he remained secluded in his own world. Still, she sat beside him, and at times when it was too painful to look at him, she did so through her camera. At home, she looked through the images, and she allowed herself to grieve.

In 2014, Kim returned to her father’s daily haunt to find him gone. He had, she learned, suffered a heart attack and was being treated at a hospital. During his stay, he consented to get treatment for his mental illness, and day by day, he healed, and as he did, he built a relationship with his daughter.

Today, Kim’s dad is going strong. He’s looking for work and spends time with his child. He’s seen the photographs his daughter made, and he’s moved by them. Kim credits him for nurturing her love of photography; her childhood memories of her father include secret gifts of gummy bears (her mother did not approve of sugary snacks) and a photo studio in the island of O’ahu. Recently, she gave him a camera of his own, and he is following in her footsteps, taking pictures on the streets.

Through it all, Kim admits that she has forgiven her father. As she writes in the mission statement for The Homeless Paradise, “Nobody is perfect.” Ultimately, we’re all human, and we’re all trying to navigate the same—sometimes harsh—world. There are many fathers, mothers, and children who still remain on the streets. To help, please consider donating to The Homeless Paradise. You may also follow the project on Kim’s blog, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter for updates.

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June 5, 2014

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April 12, 2013

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October 20, 2014

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December 1, 2014

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July 17, 2015

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December 16, 2014

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February 10, 2015

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Kim’s father meeting his grandsons for the first time since his recovery

All images © Diana Kim

via My Modern Met

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