As Cheo Sobalvarro turned the corner on a recent afternoon, he noticed his friend Robert scribbling on a notebook. As he took out his camera and focused the lens, Robert looked up.
“Hey Robert,” Sobalvarro said. “How are you doing, man?”
Robert, who declined to give his last name, is a homeless man living on the streets of downtown Miami. The pair met a year ago when Sobalvarro went on a photo walk with Igers Miami, who is part of an Instagram community.
When Sobalvarro first saw Robert, he asked him about the notebook. Robert said they were ciphers, a form of encryption used in data protection.
Sobalvarro or as he is better known on Instagram, @Cheo1392, is a systems engineer working in data storage solutions. He said photography compelled him to give back to those less fortunate than him.
“A lot of times they’re ignored and it feels like if they’re invisible to the rest of the people,” he said.
Sobalvarro said he went through hardships of his own when he was a teen, something that helps him understand people like Robert. Instagram both raises awareness of the issue and shows people interacting with the homeless isn’t as dangerous as they might think.
“Using Instagram has facilitated me into reaching out to as many people as I can,” he said.
He said the response has been incredibly positive.
“I have an anonymous Amazon wish-list, it lists all the different things that I could use out here. I’ll have packages arriving at my house randomly,” he said.
Sobalvarro, along with friend Tyler Harris, started a project called Beautifully Human. The name, he said, comes from the idea that everyone wants to be — and needs to be — treated with respect.
If anyone would like to make a donation of food, clothes or even participate, contact Sobalvarro through Instagram @Cheo1392. To buy the items from Amazon to donate towards his cause, click this link.