When area photographer Robin Pendergrast traveled around the world with his family in 2005, he saw an unfortunate commonality among the countries they visited.
“The homeless were everywhere, whether it was Hong Kong, Sydney, Rome, they were everywhere,” he said.
It’s not simply a local problem, a Chicago problem, a United States problem, he said. It’s a worldwide problem, he said.
Deeply affected by what he saw, Pendergrast couldn’t help but take pictures. He wanted to tell their stories, to raise awareness of the issue.
He’d ask his subjects for permission, often provide them some money for a hot meal or other necessities.
“The condition that some of these people are in that are homeless in Florence, Italy, or wherever ... they’re sitting there with open sores and just kind of emaciated. They’re living second to second is what it amounts to,” he said.
Upon his return to his Crystal Lake studio, Pendergrast tossed around the idea for a book containing the photographs for several years. That idea has become “Without Shelter.”
Now for sale through his studio, purchases of the book at $75 each will aid efforts of McHenry County PADS, a program of Pioneer Center, which provides shelter and assistance to the area’s homeless.
As stated in the book’s introduction, “This book of photographic works, shot through my eyes of people Without Shelter, encompasses a difficult view of humanity. ...
“It is my fervent hope you look at these photos, see them through your eyes, and absorb them into your being.”
Pendergrast called on area freelance writer Rick Copper of Algonquin to write the introduction as well as copy throughout the book, while Radka Sumberova wrote “The Man Behind the Camera,” a description of Pendergrast and his journey, for the book’s sleeve.
Copper said he felt the photographs depicted “the plight of humanity,” and through his words, he wanted to convey that message.
“I’m hoping it gets enough exposure so that it will aid the Pioneer Center, and I think it’s a very worthwhile endeavor to show that the homeless problem isn’t just an American problem,” he said. “People tend to think it’s just us. It just brings to life it’s a global problem.”
Along with images from throughout the world, the book contains photographs taken in McHenry County, including a photo of “Steve,” a homeless man Pendergrast often sees and helps out when he can.
Others were taken at an area PADS location and on a Crystal Lake street corner.
“It’s really an eye opener to see how these people go from location to location at night with no place to go,” Pendergrast said. “In the case of some of these people in foreign countries, they don’t even have PADS available to them. They’re really caught short.”