Let’s Welcome Daniel Troppy
I’m personally delighted to share our Community Spotlight, Daniel Troppy. Daniel is a talented photographer and Founder of the nonprofit, YIMBY Georgia. His passion and work is to help our homeless community and he makes an impact every single day. Welcome, Daniel!
Q: I’m so excited to dive into your passion and work but first, tell us a bit about yourself.
A: My name is Daniel Troppy and my background has always been connected to the arts. I was a contemporary painter for most of my life, and my paintings are in several museums such as: MOGA (Atlanta), Huntsville Museum of Arts (Alabama), Southeast Museum of Texas, McAllen International Museum of Art (Texas), and in Germany at the Charlotte Zander & The Children’s Museum of Mexico City. I taught art to children for 6 years at Hillside Hospital which is a children’s psychiatric hospital. I owned a vintage store in the Old Fourth Ward for 5 years and when I closed the store in 2015 I picked up a camera and took classes, which brings us here today.
Q: How or why did your passion in photography merge with your mission to tell the stories of people in our community experiencing homelessness?
A: After I took photography classes, learned how to mix the chemicals for the darkroom, and process the black and white 35mm film, I knew pretty instantly what I wanted my subject to be: people. I have always been interested in people’s stories and fascinated by the human spirit. As I set out to photograph people on the street, I took with me a notebook & pen so I could write down their story. After I gathered up a nice collection of photos of strangers I had met, I eventually posted my first photograph on my Facebook page. The following day a friend on Facebook, Lisa, sent me $20 or $25 and wanted me to get the man in that photo some supplies. I posted her donation because I couldn’t believe someone had sent me money to help someone; that is how it all began. After posting the second photo, along with their story, I received another donation and it just snowballed from there. Shortly thereafter I had turned what was an art project for me into a 501c3 homeless nonprofit called YIMBY Georgia. YIMBY is an acronym for “Yes In My BackYard” because homelessness is in every area & zip code in our country: every neighborhood, every community, every Red & Blue state, and it is literally in everyone’s backyard metaphorically.
Q: Was there a pivotal moment or shift that led your desire to serve this community?
A: I would have to say the pivotal moment for me was the instant connection my friends on Facebook had with my photos & stories. The subject matter touched them deeply. I also must say that I have never met a stranger in my life; I could sit on a park bench and meet new people all day long. I have that personality which is a major asset to me and I use it!
There are a lot of stereotypes and/or comments made as to why someone is homeless. For example, “Why don’t they do something for themselves?”, “Why don’t they just go get ‘any’ job?”, or “If I give them money they’re just going to use it to buy alcohol”. It goes on. It’s really based on fear and the unknown of what’s uncomfortable, right? How do you answer this or educate?
You are correct with your comment “It’s really based on fear and the unknown of what’s uncomfortable.” Anything unknown to the majority is uncomfortable. That’s the perfect word to describe it, Julie. For many decades when anyone heard the term “hobo”, “bum”, or “homeless”, it was associated with someone who left their friends & family for the wide open road because they were allegedly alcoholics or drug users. That misconception is what fuels me because I can tell you that I have had the honor of meeting people with associate, bachelor, graduate, master & doctoral degrees. I’ve met both blue collar as well as white collar workers, workers & employers, behind the counters and behind the desks. Today there is absolutely no discrimination when it comes to who might experience homelessness. How we educate is by shining a light on the subject. The best disinfectant is the sunlight, so by placing a light on the subject we are able to see a clearer picture. Taking photographs and listening to people’s stories is how we bring people experiencing homelessness onto the stage. We are inviting them to be seen and heard. Looking someone in their eyes and acknowledging their existence gives people the respect we all deserve.
Q: You and I connected because we have visited with some of the same people that you met and photographed. My 11 year old son and I frequently visit the chronically homeless in a tent city. Because my son is with me, we’ve stayed in a visible location and generally visit the same people. It has been a safer option for us. It’s definitely been a learning experience in exposure to human conditions for my son as we never know who might be a new visitor or what the situation might be. It’s been incredibly rewarding and very difficult from an emotional standpoint at the same time. How do you keep from it becoming too heavy or emotional at the end of your day?
A: I have to say that I am so glad you took your 11 year old son with you. What a powerful lesson you have shown him that he could never get from a classroom. Good for you Julie. Exposing children to ‘REALITY” is always the best lesson a child can learn. You cannot shield your child from life and this is a portion of reality that is difficult for many. It’s difficult to talk to children about why someone is living without a roof over their heads; it’s easier to just look in another direction for some. True conversations with substance are often difficult, but in the end it’s always more educational. I have had the opportunity to meet so many people and hear so many stories, from someone who lost their job to someone who faced a divorce or medical condition. Something happened that was out of their control. I am an optimist, so I believe that there isn’t anything too large we can’t conquer with humanity & compassion; this is what helps me make it through the heaviness of what I do.
Q: The simplest gestures make such a difference. What are some basic items you’d advise people to keep in their car that can be handed to someone that is asking for help?
A: This is such a powerful question and I’m so glad you asked it Julie. If everyone in every small town or big city across America kept a box of (soft) protein bars or a case of sparkling water (no plastic bottles please) in their cars to hand out to anyone in need can you just imagine our world? That’s the world in which I want to live in, where everyone steps up and helps. On our YIMBY Georgia website, we have short videos showing how you can make your very own hygiene kits, snack food kits, feminine hygiene kits, kits with an extra t-shirt & socks kits; you name it and you can make a kit out of it. Just grab a few items you might have in your bathroom, hall closet, kitchen cabinet, or your closet and place them inside a large zip lock bag. At YIMBY Georgia we try not to give out too much plastic, but a large zip lock bag is so important because you can store & keep your important documents dry from the weather.
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