kristin
heinichen

photojournalist
heinichenkristin@gmail.com
740-591-0712

goin' where the weather fits my clothes

The five dwellings of Scioto Park shantytown
are located on city property on the edge
of downtown Columbus, Ohio. These structures
are unauthorized, and their owners are considered
squatters. These makeshift constructions
are not equipped with running water, electricity
or proper sanitation and are composed of plywood,
plastic, and corrugated metal. But these
settlements provide more than just shielding
from the elements. In many instances, they provide a sanctuary from the constraints of everyday life.

Jim, Danny, Gordon, James, Rob and Cherese are living the life of a squatter. Whether it is by choice or default, these folks have forfeited many of the modern social conventions in exchange for a life lived under their terms.

Some have put forth the effort to change their situation, while others have settled in. With or without intention, this shantytown has turned into a rooted community.

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Jim will join the others, but mostly he remains on the periphery of social interactions. The shantytown which he is a part of, is hidden from an uneven canopy layer of trees. Personal items are mostly safeguarded by the dwelling’s insulated plywood walls, tarps, and tarred roofs. Common items found in all of the shanties are clothes, food, hygienic whatnots, furniture and battery powered electronics. Jim also keeps a heavy supply of Bugler rollie cigarettes and beer, Colt 45, in his shanty.
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Gordon’s living room is brimming with found materials for various projects he occupies himself with for entertainment purposes. Gordon has no children of his own but often refers to a little girl he helped raise for three years. Gordon remarked that he would have liked to have someone to pass on his knowledge to.
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Rob and Cherese live in a shanty town on the fringe of downtown Columbus, Ohio. The couple braved the 2008 winter in their makeshift dwelling and welcomed the warmer weather of spring. Their living quarters are immaculate. While they take pride in the little piece of land they’re squatting on, Cherese dreams of the day when they have their own place where she can “feel more feminine.”
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This is Danny’s second shanty, which he refers to as his “hooch.” The remains of his first dwelling lies just over the hill. It was set ablaze by an arsonist in hopes that Danny would also go up in flames. Danny spends much of his time drinking alcohol or recovering from a bender. His body receives as much nutrition it can from the volume of beer he drinks and the occasional meal he eats. This night Danny drinks alone while singing along to classic rock on his ghetto blaster
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Gordon walks territory he has claimed as his own. He has built a home, pitched a tent, grown a garden and erected a fence assembled from scrap metal.
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Cherese sweeps up around her shanty while Rob looks on. Claiming to have obsessive compulsive disorder, she admits living in the woods has been very trying for her.
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It is rare that outsiders wander down the path to their settlement. What is more unexpected than finding this squatter community is the impression that bohemians live here rather than folks who are just down on their luck. In this instance, Jim’s shanty provides protection to a litter of five kittens.
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Jim rubs his arm as he recalls growing up with his father, an alcoholic and a harsh disciplinarian. Jim has a son of his own who he hasn't talked to in over 10 years.
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Bill visits Gordon and others in the shantytown. He is the founder of the philanthropic organization, In The Streets. He takes down their requests, acquires the needed items from outside donors, and then distributes the items. Here he is interacting with his pooch. He insists that he is a wolf and not a dog.
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Gordon looks over his garden on the property where he has been squatting for over 5 years. Keeping him company is a friend's dog who insists is a wolf.
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Cherese and Danny make a pack to be friends forever. Unlike Danny, Cherese isn't a drinker but plays along with the drunken induced fun.
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Ron (owner of the motorcycle) is a friend of Rob and Cherese. The two have an open invitation to use his shower and watch television. On occasion, Ron will ride his motorcycle to the shantytown, sometimes bringing beer for Rob and others.“I want to be like Tinkerbell, you know, to be able to fly away. Sometimes I just want to go someplace beautiful,” Cherese said.
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Gordon has a bird’s eye view of downtown Columbus, Ohio from where he is squatting. He chose the space for its seclusion from the outside world. He spends a great deal of his day tending to his garden plots and fancies himself part of the back-to-the-land movement with dreams of one day owning a large tract of land. “First thing I bought with my pay check was moon flower seeds. I just had to have them,” Gordon said. On the other side of the property lies Rt. 71. Though he has lived here for years, the hum of the traffic reminds him that he is living in modern times.