This is Morgan

Another installment of the "Invisible Ones" of Washington, DC

This is Morgan. I met Morgan outside of Union Station in Washington, DC. He wasn't panhandling, just sitting on a low wall with a small plastic bag from a local hospital, the type that you might get when you are discharged. I asked him about the bag and he showed me his frostbitten fingers and pointed to his foot, which he said had frostbite as well. He says he spent yesterday in the hospital getting treatments but couldn't stay any longer because he wasn't sick. Morgan says the frostbite will heal up and shows me the scarring on his other fingers that have been frozen in the past. I asked why he hadn't taken advantage of the emergency hypothermia shelters when it was below freezing. He thinks he probably had passed out somewhere and was found in the morning and taken to the hospital. Morgan says he's been living on the street for at least ten years, probably longer but he can't remember very much. No family that he knows of and no prospects for anything better than surviving the Winter as best he can. He has a long history of drug and alcohol abuse and simply says, he needs to get through the day. Morgan also has very few teeth which he showed me by opening his mouth and pointing to how sunken into his face cheeks were. Morgan is an affable and conversational man if you take the time to speak with him. He is not aggressive nor does he bother anyone that passes by. He has had some experience with Social Services in DC as he mentions needing to get a case manager again. I told him that I contact a local outreach team that would try to help him. More importantly, I told him that he needs to get into a shelter in the days ahead as the temperature will be well below freezing. He was agreeable to that idea as well as allowing me to take his photograph in exchange for a hot coffee and some food. People like Morgan who are living without shelter during the Winter can and do freeze to death or experience severe cases of frostbite. 

Washington, DC has a Hypothermia Plan. Under the city’s cold weather plan, services provided include access to emergency shelter and overnight warming sites. Designated public buildings may open at night to offer access to a warm, safe place. In addition, free transportation to a shelter or warming site is available to anyone homeless in the city during a cold weather alert. City officials say transportation may be obtained by calling 311 or the toll-free Shelter Hotline: (800) 535-7252. The numbers may be used by third parties to seek help for those appearing to need it. If you see someone in need please call the hotline number.

This is Willie-Satchel

Another installment of "The Invisible Ones of Washington, DC"

This is Willie-Satchel, named after the famous baseball pitcher, Satchel Paige. Willie is quick to tell you that his mother was a big baseball fan. I met Willie while he was sitting on a Capitol Hill park bench passively panhandling. Willie is a happy man this morning as he just received word that he is now on a waiting list for housing. It's been a long ten years he says but good people here have kept me going. Willie is hopeful that the housing will come through before the really cold weather sets in. As with so many men and women who are living without shelter literally within a few blocks of  our nation's capitol building, the irony is inescapable. They sit invisibly huddled against the elements with the backdrop of wealth and power that simply ignores them day in and day out. Surely we can do better. If you see Willie-Satchel on Capitol Hill be sure and say hello and ask him about his namesake. You both will be better for the experience. Willie was kind enough to pose for this photograph in exchange for a food voucher and a bottle of water.

This is PK and her two pets.

Another installment of "The Invisible Ones" of Washington, DC

This is "PK" and her two pets

PK was brought to my attention by a woman who had seen my Facebook project "Homeless in DC." She had asked if I had ever seen this woman who had two dogs, a beagle and a chihuahua and was frequently sitting in front of Union Station in Washington, DC. I was not aware of her but promised that I would search for her on my next photo outing. Sure enough, I found her this morning as she was just waking up for the day. PK, as she prefers to be called, has been homeless on the streets of DC for just three months. She came here from California to be with a friend living in DC. This didn't work out for some reason and she found herself on the streets. Since it was Summer and the nights were warm sleeping outdoors in Front of Union Station at the Columbus Fountain was tolerable and really her only option as there are no shelters in DC that accept pets. PK is very attached to her two dogs and does her best to provide for them using whatever money she has to make sure they are fed. As for PK she has no plans to try and return to California as there is nothing for her there. She is most concerned about how she will manage when the weather changes and she is still unsheltered and out in the cold. It is not often that people who are homeless have no options at all when it comes to shelter. For PK her options involve giving her pets so that she can be sheltered, which is no option at all as her pets are to quote PK, "all I have left." As a lifelong dog owner I feel for PK and her companions. My sincere hope is that anyone who follows me and my homeless projects will do what they can to help PK. She can be found on the East side of the Columbus Fountain at Union Station. Be sure and say hello to the dogs as well.

Another installment of "The Invisible Ones" of Washington, DC

This is Kenny.

This is Kenny

I met Kenny on a recent Friday morning during the morning rush hour in the Dupont Circle neighborhood of Washington, DC. Dupont Circle is a very busy commercial hub with a metro stop that exits on both sides of the circular park, making for a crush of pedestrians on any given morning. Kenny had propped himself against a streetlamp post and was simply holding out a weathered paper cup asking for spare change. Given the number of pedestrians on the street, passersby were literally stepping over Kenny to continue on their way. After I introduced myself and explained the photography project, I sat down on the sidewalk to talk. This really disrupted the pedestrian flow but at least created a small buffer zone for our conversation. Kenny tells me he is 53 years old and has been on the streets of Washington, DC for 35 years. He has long ago lost touch with any family or social network that he may have had. Kenny can speak firsthand about the ravages of the crack cocaine epidemic in DC along with the gang violence that accompanied it. He points to the scar on the left side of his eye but declines to tell me what that was about. Kenny's primary means of survival is panhandling and the goodwill of various organizations that try to look after the chronically homeless in DC. He sleeps in the park at Dupont Circle which he says is a safe place relative to most of the shelters in DC. He does make a point of telling me that 35 years on the street teaches you how to look out for yourself. I am certain that is a true thing. Kenny was agreeable to this photograph in exchange for a monetary contribution and a food voucher. After I left his side on the sidewalk the crowds again began to walk past and over him. If ever there was an example of being invisible, Kenny exemplified that on this particular Friday morning.