Talented Photographer Unemployed, Homeless

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The jobless rate is dropping in Kansas City but its impact still lingers. The rate is now at 6.5 percent, which is somewhat lower than 2010.

More than one in 20 people across the metro is looking for work. The number of homeless people is on the rise.

Jose Santa Cruz has spent 30 years behind the lens of a camera. He is nationally known for his images in magazines and he loves his work.

"The true fine art of photography is when you are able to put a part of yourself in the image," Santa Cruz said.

He practically caresses the camera as he holds it up to capture his photographs. The camera he uses now is borrowed. He had to sell his equipment piece by piece when he was diagnosed with cancer. He lost a kidney and couldn't find work.

"Selling the 8x10 was the one that hurt the most because it was a custom made camera," Santa Cruz said. "There were only 15 of them but it had to be done; there was no other choice."

Now, he goes to the Kansas City Rescue Mission where the bed he sleeps in is the only space he can call his own.

"This is my Ritz Carlton," he said. "Once you fall into the hold of homelessness it's like being underwater and trying to grasp for some air and try to make some understanding of what brought you here so you can fix the problem."

He has become friends with one of the directors at the shelter. They share a love of photography.

"We are seeing people who never thought they would be homeless, and here they are," said Will Howard with the Kansas City Rescue Mission. "People who have had good jobs in the past and successful and would not fit the picture people have of homelessness."

Santa Cruz desperately wants to get back on his feet but it's difficult with no camera, no computer and a homeless shelter as an address. He never thought he would be homeless with only a borrowed camera. He is dreaming of the day things will turn around.

"I guess I would go to the movie Apollo 13, which is a great movie," he said. "The guy says, 'This is going to be my finest moment when I get back on my feet."'

Statistics show that many of us are only a few lost paychecks away from living a life on the streets like Santa Cruz, but he hopes he is only a few steps from the life he once knew.

To help Santa Cruz call the Kansas City Rescue Mission at (816)  421 7643
or email jose at jsanta_cruzp@yahoo.com.

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