The Night Bus


This photo essay was created by Hannah Bassett, a student in the Program for Narrative and Documentary Practice at Tufts University, which took 11 students to St. Petersburg, Russia to explore the country up-close. The stories and photographs they brought home focused on the cultural, the social, and the sense of place. The workshop was led by award-winning photographer Samuel James.


There are an estimated 30,000 homeless people in Saint Petersburg. While each district within the city is supposed to provide shelter for its homeless population, the government bureaucracy prevents nearly all those in need from getting the help they are promised. Without access to local shelters, members of the homeless community are forced to seek shelter on the streets, which can average minus 10 degrees Celsius in the depths of winter. Shelter is vital, but even more important is sustenance. For the homeless populations on the fringes of the city, a volunteer food truck, known as the Night Bus, provides just that.

Operated by the nonprofit Nochleshka (Night Shelter) and its volunteers, the Night Bus makes its way around the city each weeknight, stopping in designated places to distribute soup, bread, coffee, and pastries to the local homeless people. These men and women, mostly in their 40s and 50s, gather each night as ephemeral communities, smiling and joking with one another before returning to their respective street corners for the night.

These portraits are of people it can be too easy to look past.