Another installment of "The Invisible Ones" of Washington, DC.
Anissa is a 30 something woman who has been living on the streets of Arlington Virginia and now Washington, DC for the last five years. When I met her she was sitting on a plastic milk crate at the intersection of 27th and K Streets. This particular spot is well known to the homeless as it is a very busy commuter thoroughfare. Anissa tells me that she also sleeps under the overpass where we are standing unless it's really cold, then she will use some of her panhandling money to get a cheap room in a SRO hotel. She tries to avoid the homeless shelters as she finds them to be dangerous places. Anissa came to be homeless following a divorce proceeding because she was unable to maintain the marital home and soon exhausted the settlement money. At one time she was training to be a veterinary technician but never finished her education. She had no other job skills and no prospects because she is homeless. Drugs, Alcohol and mental illness do not seem to part of the problem as best I can tell.
Anissa is an affable and friendly woman who is able to make enough money panhandling to survive on the streets. When I told her about the Invisible Ones project she just laughed saying, "Honey, you have no idea how invisible I can be out here." She's certainly right about that. If you see Anissa or know of someone like her living on the streets without shelter, stop and have a conversation. Ask if you can help out in someway. I promise you'll both feel better having had that experience.