This is Michael

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

This is Michael

This is Michael

I have known Michael for over three years and have made a street portrait of him on three different occasions. Michael is a mentally ill man who has lived on the streets of Washington DC for at least five years. He usually can be found in the same area of the city doing what he does, which is stopping traffic and yelling at nobody in particular. In spite of this impairment Michael is a friendly and affable man if you can get him to sit still long enough to have a conversation. The one thing he is adamant about is that he is not mentally ill. "Don't talk to me about that shit" he will tell you, So I don't go there. Michael seems to survive on handouts and assistance from outreach workers. He has no apparent possessions, but I suspect he keeps somethings stashed somewhere as I've seen him in different clothing. Michael is always agreeable to allowing me to photograph him in exchange for a cash donation or something to eat. If you see or know someone like Michael, stop and say hello. Even that simple act of kindness means a great deal to someone who is otherwise invisible to all who pass them by.

This is Nathan

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

This is Nathan

This is Nathan

I met Nathan near the Gallery Place Metro station in Washington, DC one early morning this week. During the morning commute, this is a very busy place with hundreds of people coming and going. Nathan was calling out to passersby saying that any help would be a blessing. He was being ignored. Nathan is a friendly, gregarious and not at all aggressive in his panhandling. It was almost impossible to engage him in a coherent conversation as his thinking was very disorganized and rambling. He did tell me that he has been living on the street for longer than he can remember. Judging from his appearance and need for dental work, this would seem to be a factual assessment. Nathan agreed to participate in the Invisible Ones project in exchange for a food voucher and a bottle of water.

Like so many of DC's homeless, Nathan is largely invisible to most who pass him by on their way to and from work in the city. If you know or see someone like Nathan, stop and say or do something nice. Show a little humanity to someone who feels like they are invisible. I promise that you'll both feel better having had that experience.

This is Lolita

Another installment of The Invisible Ones of Washington, DC

This is Lolita

This is Lolita

I met Lolita on  H Street in the heart of Chinatown early one morning, last week. She sitting on the sidewalk in a building doorway along with an assortment of newspapers, blankets, and other paper trash. She was also missing her shoes. When I asked how long she had been homeless, she said that she had an apartment but couldn't stay there because other people had "marked her." She declined to elaborate on what that meant. Given Lolita's disheveled appearance and need for clean clothing, it seems unlikely that she has housing. When asked if she needed anything, she replied that she had not eaten in awhile and could use some water. Lolita was not panhandling when I met her but it seems that she is known to some of the regular passersby who help her out on their way to work. I bought her some food and a bottle of water in exchange for this photograph. Like so any of the marginalized people living without shelter on the streets of Washington, DC. Lolita is friendly enough and not threatening in any way. Her passivity causes her to blend in with the environment and to become invisible to most everyone who passes by. If you see or know of someone like Lolita, stop and have a conversation, see if you can help out in some way. You'll both be better off for having had that experience.

This is Alice

Another installment of "The InvisibleOnes" of Washington, DC

This is Alice

This is a photograph of Alice taken on February 14, 2017. Alice is a profoundly mentally ill woman who has been living on the streets of Washington, DC for many years. I made another photograph of her in May of 2016. She was quite mentally then as well. Her condition has only worsened over the course of one year. If you click here you can read about Alice as she was a year ago.

Alice presents herself as friendly and approachable but she is much to thought disordered to carry on a coherent conversation. Judging from her dirty and unkempt appearance I would think she is sleeping outside. She has no personal belongings and is too disorganized to effectively panhandle. I bought her some food and a cup of coffee in exchange for this photograph, which she was agreeable to. Alice and other mentally ill men and women living on the streets of DC are a testament to the failed policies of the city government with respect to caring for the most vulnerable of its residents. Because Alice is not aggressive or disruptive in any way she doesn't come to the attention of the police. She also doesn't cause passersby to even notice her, even though she is sitting on the sidewalk talking to herself. If you see Alice in the NOMA neighborhood, try and help her out is some way. Food and water would be a good place to start. You'll both be better off for having had that experience.

This is Jane

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

I met Jane outside of a supermarket in the trendy NOMA neighborhood of Washington, DC. It was a cold, rainy morning and Jane was huddled under an overhang to keep dry. I brought her into the lobby of the market to see if she would be willing to allow me to photograph her for the Invisible Ones project. It didn't take too long to determine that, Jane was quite mentally ill. When I asked her name, she produced an old hospital wristband dating back to July of 2016. She pointed out that the name on the band said, Jane Doe so that must be who she is. Trying to have a conversation with Jane was really quite pointless because of her rambling and incoherent thinking. She was hungry so I bought her some food in exchange for this photograph. Like many of the homeless, mentally ill living on the streets of DC, Jane is friendly and approachable if you take the time to speak with her. I have no idea how long Jane has been homeless but judging from her dirty and disheveled appearance, I would guess she's been living without shelter for quite awhile. If you see or know someone like Jane, stop and have a conversation. Ask if you can help out in someway. You'll be surprised to learn that you'll both feel better having had that experience.

This is Vernell

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

This is Vernell

I noticed Vernell sitting near one of the non-working fountains outside Union Station out of site from the main entrance where the Union Station Security police are on patrol to discourage the homeless from loitering or entering the main station. When I approached Vernell he was friendly and conversational, sadly he also seems to be mentally ill in that he said he was waiting for his limo to take him back to the White House where he had meetings to attend. If I had a car he would allow me to drive him there instead of waiting for the Secret Service. I don't make it a habit to encourage delusional conversation so I changed the subject asking Vernell if he would allow me to take his photograph in exchange for a bottle of water and a few granola bars. He agreed to do so. There are many homeless men and women in this very same situation and they are largely ignored by those who pass them by every day. I would suggest trying this instead, just ask how they are doing and if there is anything you can do to help in some way. You may be pleasantly surprised by what happens next.

This is Richard

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

I met Richard outside of an office building early one morning just before Christmas. It appeared he had slept in a small alcove near the entrance. Richard has no possessions other than the clothes he is wearing which are badly in need of washing. He has shoes but no socks. When I asked Richard how he was doing and if he needed anything, it became clear that he also had some serious mental health issues. He spoke only in a soft whisper and it was almost impossible to make sense of anything that he said. I was able to learn that he had not eaten recently so I bought him some food and a coffee for which he was grateful. This allowed me to explain the photography project and get his agreement to allow me to make this photograph. Interestingly, he recognized the camera brand that I use and was interested in seeing it more closely. Beyond that there is little I can say about Richard other than he is badly in need of shelter and mental health services. I will make the programs that I work with in DC aware of him and hopefully their outreach teams will be able to make a connection. There are far too many men and women like Richard living without shelter in Washington, DC. Should you see any of them as you head back to work this week, stop for a moment and ask if you can help in some way. At the very least just say hello. I guarantee you'll both be the better for the experience.

This is Henry

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

I noticed Henry as I was walking on the other side of 1st Street, NE in Washington, DC. This particular street runs parallel to Union Station and is a well-used sleeping place for people who are homeless. Henry was among them this particular morning and stood out more than others because he was sleeping on several plastic bags stuffed full of printed materials, some of which can be seen in the photograph. Henry is easily engaged in conversation but only on his terms. If you choose to listen for awhile you will hear about his pending Supreme Court case and his wrongful discharge case against the Pentagon as well as his being in the witness protection program because he is a whistleblower. All of this he claims is contained in the piles of paper upon which he is sitting. I have not seen Henry before in this part of the city. When asked how long he has been living on the street he just shrugs his shoulders and begins searching through his papers as if the answer might be there. Frustrated with that he returns to the Supreme Court case, saying that he will finally get some justice. It is virtually impossible to determine the veracity of anything that Henry says. What can be known is that he is sleeping on the street, surrounded by bags of letter sized paper and is in need of clean clothing. He does not panhandle but instead tries to engage passersby in listening to his story. Given that this is a major commuter route to Union Station he is largely invisible to most who haven't the time or the inclination to just say hello. Things will get more difficult for Henry as the weather turns colder. If you are so inclined, help him out however you can. I gave Henry a food voucher and a cup of coffee in exchange for this photograph.

This is Lorenzo

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

This is Lorenzo

This is Lorenzo

Dupont Circle in Washington, DC is a very hectic place with two Metro entrances/exits on the North and South side of the circle, along with ten busy streets feeding into the traffic circle. The circle itself is a sleeping place for dozens of homeless people as the perimeter is lined with benches. I was sitting on one such bench on a recent hot and humid morning when I spotted Lorenzo darting in and out of traffic stopping briefly on a street corner as morning commuters passed him by. 

Lorenzo has considerable difficulty standing in one place for any length of time, although he did agree to allow me this photograph and talk for a bit. I asked him about the Winter gloves given that it was already hot and humid early in the morning. He simply said he needed to wear them. The same explanation was offered for the bandages on his face. Lorenzo says he has been homeless on and off for about five years. This particular time of one year has been the longest. I have no way of knowing about how he came to be homeless, his family, or any history of mental health care as he simply won't share this information which is not all that unusual.

Lorenzo is a friendly and affable young man if you are inclined to stop and talk with him. He is not an aggressive panhandler, letting his signage speak for him. In spite of that he doesn't do very well panhandling as he can't stay in one spot for very long. After I took my photograph and compensated Lorenzo with a food voucher, I returned to the park bench and watched as he was ignored by dozens and dozens of work day commuters who didn't even seem to notice this striking fellow in the middle of the sidewalk - truly one of "The Invisible Ones."