Another installment of "The Invisible Ones" of Washington, DC
I first saw Allison sitting on the sidewalk holding a paper cup just outside the entrance to the Farragut North Metro station. This is a very busy spot during the morning rush with hundreds of passers-by. In spite of these crowds Allison had been unable to solicit any donations or even a second glance as far as I could tell. When I sat down beside her she seemed truly surprised that anyone would take the time to do that. Allison is only 23 years old and has been living on the streets for almost three years. She is reluctant to talk very much about how this came to be her way of life or what the future looks like for her. What seems very clear is how profoundly depressed she seems. This makes effective panhandling all but impossible because she can't engage with any of the commuters who pass within inches of her spot on the sidewalk. When I asked about this, she just looked away. Allison is currently sleeping outdoors because she feels unsafe in any of the shelters. She uses the local soup kitchens for meals if she can't make enough panhandling. She was willing to participate in the "Invisible Ones Project" in exchange for a small monetary compensation. The coming cold weather will be very hard on Allison and others like her. If you know of someone who you pass by everyday that is homeless stop and have a conversation. Ask if you can help out in some way. I guarantee you'll both be better off for having had that experience.