This is Reginald

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

This is Reginald

Reginald is a 56-year-old homeless gentleman who has been living on the streets of Washington, DC for about 10 years. When I met him he was sitting near a construction site on the corner of 20th and L streets NW, DC. He was panhandling but not doing very well because people were walking around the construction rather than passing by him. When I asked him why he didn't just relocate, he said this intersection of 20th and L has been his home for many years. He has seen buildings come and go, businesses, bars, and restaurants open and close. Reginald tells me there was a time when he could make as much as $50 during the morning rush and better than that in the evening. Those days are long gone, he says. He is hopeful that after the current construction is done things will improve on the street. Reginald says he is on the waiting list for a housing voucher. As a practical matter that is really a cruel joke because that list is decades long and having your name on the list guarantees nothing but waiting. Reginald tells me he was once diagnosed as a Paranoid Schizophrenic but has not had any symptoms for more than 20 years. Another Dr. told him that is was probably a mistake. Reginald is an affable and friendly man who is easy to engage in conversation. He agreed to this photograph in exchange for a bottle of water and a food voucher. If you are in the area of 20th and L streets NW, you'll find him there. Stop and ask him how he's doing and what you might do to help him feel a little less invisible even for a few minutes. You'll both feel better having had that experience.

This is Fred

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

 

This is Fred

Fred is a 60 something gentleman that I met panhandling on the sidewalk in a neighborhood of Washington, DC known as the "Golden Triangle" The commercial neighborhood that is home to more than 3,000 organizations such as top law firms, lobbyists, associations, and architecture firms; 200 restaurants; 300 shops, retailers, and 7 hotels. This area is especially busy during the morning rush hour. For Fred however, he may as well have been sitting in the middle of an open field out in the country as he was invisible to all who passed him by. Fred is a quiet man who only speaks if he is spoken to. If one chooses to do that it becomes very evident that Fred is unable to sustain a coherent conversation. I was able to get Fred to focus on his immediate needs for something to eat  and a bottle of water, which he agreed to in exchange for this photograph. Fred is not able to tell me how long he's been living on the street or anything else about himself that is based in reality. So I thanked him for his time and moved on. It is not uncommon for the homeless and homeless mentally ill to be found in this affluent and prosperous section of the city. As has been the case for years, the irony of this tragic clash of poverty and great wealth is totally lost on the city administration who are currently using the police department to move people along who are deemed to be unsightly or unpleasant in some way. If you see someone like Fred on the street. Spend a few moments asking them if you can help out in some way. Two things will happen, they will feel less invisible for a few minutes and you'll feel better for having made that happen.

This is Shannon

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

This is Shannon

I noticed Shannon panhandling just outside the Whole Foods Market in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood of Washington, DC. This is a very busy spot during the morning rush hours but Shannon was being ignored by almost everyone who passed by, making her one of the invisible ones. Shannon says she's been living on the streets of Washington, DC for over 10 years. She came to DC from Annapolis, Maryland with a boyfriend who is now in prison and has been homeless ever since. Shannon's lack of shelter is complicated by her addiction problems. She has a noticeable tremor which she says is due to alcohol withdrawal. Shannon is no stranger to detox programs but cannot manage to stay clean and sober. She was recently beaten and raped while staying at a shelter. You can see the wound on her forehead in the photograph. It is for this reason that she prefers to sleep on the street where it is safer. Shannon is a pleasant and affable woman who is not aggressive with her panhandling. She sits quietly, with her tattered cardboard sign asking for whatever help a passerby cares to give. She agreed to this photograph in exchange for a bottle of water and something to eat. If you know or see someone like Shannon, stop for a minute and ask if you can help in someway. You'll both be better off for having had that conversation. 

This is Barbie

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

This is Barbie

Barbie was sitting on a sidewalk in the trendy NOMA neighborhood of NE Washington, DC surrounded by her worldly possessions. She was not panhandling, just sitting quietly. Barbie tells me she has been in this spot for about six weeks and living on the street since November of 2015. Barbie is 35 years old and is most concerned with the police coming around and forcing her to move on. She has already had many of her possessions stolen by strangers and would like to keep what she has left. The random sweeps done by the Washington, DC police department are making life on the street much more difficult than it already is. Barbie is tentatively connected to Social Services and has a caseworker who was working on housing. This plan collapsed when her boyfriend was arrested and is now in jail. I did ask about the black eye and was told that it happened during a fight. Like so many homeless people, Barbie lives on the street rather than in the shelters which can be dangerous, especially for women. So she will remain where she is until forced to move on by the police for the crime of living without shelter. Barbie agreed to this photograph in exchange for a bottle of water and a cash donation. If you happen to see Barbie or someone like her, stop and ask if you can help in some way. I'm sure Barbie has more of a story to tell if someone will listen. I guarantee you'll both feel better having had that experience.

This is just shameful

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

Mother and child

I was on my way to Union Station one morning last week, walking along 1st Street, NE.                   when I came across this young child and a woman who may or may not have been his mother. The child did not appear in any distress and was smiling and waving at passersby. I asked if the person sleeping behind him was his mother and he nodded affirmatively. He said, “she was sleeping and that she sleeps a lot.” I tried to arouse this woman by calling out to her and shaking her arm beneath the blanket. She was unresponsive but breathing and not in any visible distress. The two of them were surrounded by piles of blankets, clothing and assorted belongings. An elderly homeless woman camped out on the same stretch of sidewalk told me the child and woman had been there for about three days. When I returned to the child the woman was awake but groggy and was now angry with me for bothering her. I asked her if she needed any help and if she was able to look after the child. She tried to spit on me but missed. I left her and the child and contacted the DC Child Protective Service hotline to report what I had seen as well as emailed them this photograph for reference.

It makes me very angry that in a city as wealthy and influential as Washington, DC there are families sleeping on the street. It makes me even more angry that on this particular day, during the morning rush hour, literally hundreds of people walked within three feet of this child and his unconscious mother. They either didn’t see, didn’t care or couldn’t be bothered to look at this tragic scene right at their feet. Shame on them and shame on my city and it’s elected officials for allowing this to go on.

This is Kim

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

This is Kim

I met Kim on a busy street corner near the Farragut Square Metro station in Washington, DC. She was sitting quietly up against a building holding an empty paper cup in an attempt to collect donations. Kim is a friendly and affable woman who has been homeless and living on the streets of DC for about ten years. She was formerly a nurse but lost her credentials due to severe problems with drugs and alcohol. She tells me she has been clean and sober for two years and is hopeful that this time, she will stay that way. Kim is a good example of someone who previously was a productive member of society that through her own poor choices caused her life to spiral out of control. She would be the first to tell you that and is only looking for a chance to get back on her feet. It is very difficult for women who are living without shelter for all of the obvious reasons. For Kim and other recovering substance abusers, it is even more difficult because of the easy availability of drugs and alcohol on the street. I have a great deal of admiration and respect for people who persevere with maintaining their sobriety under these circumstances. If you know Kim or someone like her, stop and have a conversation. Ask how they are doing and if you can help in some way. I guarantee that you'll both be better off for having had that experience.

This is Ronald

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

This is Ronald

I met Ronald on the sidewalk in the area of Washington DC known as "The Golden Triangle." This is an area of high-rise office buildings and expensive real estate. Ronald was searching the sidewalks for salvageable cigarette butts. He said he didn't have a lot of time to talk because the people who clean and wash down the sidewalks in front of these buildings would be along soon and any cigarette butts would be gone. Ronald has been homeless for at least ten years that he can recall. He lived with his mother in an apartment before that but was forced to leave. He can't recall what happened. Ronald suffers from a variety of physical and mental problems. He has a number of open sores on his hands as well as a few cysts such as the one on the side of his face. He says that sometimes he goes to the hospital when they get infected but mostly he just lets them be. Ronald also repeats himself quite a bit, forgetting where he was in a story and needing to start over. In spite of these deficits, Ronald is an affable and friendly man who was willing to speak with me as long as I walked with him in search of trash on the street. He agreed to this photograph in exchange for a monetary donation which I'm sure was used to purchase cigarettes. If you happen to see someone like Ronald in your city, stop and ask how they are doing and if you can help in some way. I guarantee you'll both be better off for having had that experience.

This is Larry

This is a look back at where Larry was two years ago and where he is today.

I saw Larry today on the street near Capitol Hill and thought he looked familiar. In fact I had photographed Larry almost two years ago on July 8th, 2014. At that time he was homeless without any prospects for improving his life, getting by with panhandling. This is Larry today. He is working as a street vendor for the local DC based newspaper  Street Sense. Congratulations to Larry for persevering and making the effort to do what it takes to get off the streets. The next time you see a "Street Sense" vendor in DC or if you have a similar paper in your city, stop and buy a paper and offer some encouragement and praise for how far they have come. You'll both be better off for having had that experience.