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.