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I am seeking funding to print a collection of the pictures from my book Shopping Bag Ladies: Homeless Women Speak About Their Lives. This work covers a very specific time period in New York and other cities. I documented an era that has now changed forever (maybe for the worse). My interest right now is to insure that a complete set of prints from the work (there are 150 in all) resides together somewhere in a collection (a major museum collection I hope.)

The series has been exhibited many times and as a result of travel and damage a complete set of good condition prints does not now exist. I am seeking a sponsor to fund the making of a new set of prints, and then for this sponsor to donate the prints to a museum of his or her choice. If this is of interest to you or you know of someone who would be interested in supporting this project please email me at annmarie@amrousseau.com and I will be happy to send you further information and a video tape about the project.

The book was published in 1981 by Pilgrim Press and was made into a CBS movie starring Lucille Ball in 1985. The work covers a period during the 1970's and early 1980's when there was very little coverage or interest in the subject of homelessness particularly as it impacted on women.

My book aimed to explore some of the reasons why women became homeless and to document the conditions in which they attempted to survive without the simple amenity of a roof over their heads. I was interested to know among other things what the differences were for women as opposed to homeless men, as well as to get an idea of the numbers of women there were living on the streets.

I found that women tended to be much more invisible and less identifiably homeless than men. I also found that they were in greater danger and had access to far fewer services. For instance, the Shelter Care Center for Women, one of the only municipal shelters for women in New York, or in the nation, at the time housed only 53 women, whereas the Men's Shelter had room for over three thousand (even if it was only a lice infested cot in a flop house.) Once the 53 beds were filled at the Women's Shelter, women were turned away to fend for themselves on the street.

During the seventies when homelessness was silently on the rise, women were refused shelter many nights no matter what the weather. Men were much more likely to get a bed inside if they wanted it. Similar conditions existed in other cities across America.

The pictures I took were meant to be portraits of the environment in which the women were seen and not seen. I let the text form the fuller portraits of the women themselves. Much has changed in the years since I did this book. For one thing the numbers of homeless people have vastly grown since the seventies when researchers I worked with began to predict exactly what has happened. (Huge increases in the numbers of homeless people.) A law has been passed which prevents New York City from turning away anyone, male or female, who asks for shelter. Conditions for the homeless are more difficult than they ever were and still no one knows what to do about it.

Related Links: Shopping Bag Ladies | The Benediction | Interview

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