Three years ago, Diane Kim saw the father who had abandoned her when she was only five years old. He was homeless and living on the streets in Hawaii. She was 30 years old when she discovered him, a man who wouldn’t even look her in the eye.
“He hadn’t been part of my life, he wasn’t there,” Kim explained. It was an emotional experience, “having to deal with my own personal feelings of being abandoned, and then at the same time recognizing that he’s a person, just like [every other homeless person] I have reached out to.”
“He wouldn’t talk to me, wouldn’t acknowledge me,” she said. It was clear he was “mentally ill.”
Mr. Kim is a Schizophrenic who stopped taking his medication.
Finding her father was made all the more remarkable because she was once homeless herself as a teen and turned that experience into a career of helping the homeless. She was photographing the homeless to bring attention to their plight when she found him. Her grandmother had convinced her to look for him.
Kim fought for her dad and for the life he cared nothing about. It was a battle she almost lost when he had a heart attack and was hospitalized without ID. She didn’t know where he was.
Years before Kim started a photo blog, ” The Homeless Paradise,” that documents her interactions with Hawaiians living without stable shelter. After discovering her father, she began telling his story through the blog as well. Its pages are filled with tragedy, hope, and Kim’s determination to help the world see Hawaii’s homeless as people, not problems.
Her father is now living in assisted care thanks to her loving intervention, he takes his medication and they have a new relationship, ever growing.
Kim is finishing up her college degree and she volunteers at a nonprofit that provides legal services to veterans and homeless individuals and, of course, is still using her camera and blog to tell the stories of Hawaii’s homeless.
What especially makes her happy is that her father is “proud” of her.
When her father was hospitalized, she realized how important ID is for the homeless and started a program that provides ID bracelets for them.
“In the journey of emotionally and physically caring for my father, I learned that nothing can be truer than love,” she wrote on her blog. “I love him. It doesn’t matter what he did, or what he didn’t do. The pain and suffering that he experienced, and caused me over all those years, didn’t matter anymore. All that mattered was that he had the opportunity to live again, to function again, to have a second chance. And now he has it.”