Another installment of the "Invisible Ones" of Washngton, DC
This is Donald James.
Donald describes himself as, “being down so long that he has forgotten which way is up.” I met Donald on the street in the area of the US Capitol building. As I watched him for awhile, he was working hard at panhandling but wasn’t having much success. This was surprising because he is a friendly, affable and non-aggressive panhandler who wishes people well regardless of whether they help him out or not. Donald tells me he has been living on the streets for a very long time. He will not stay in the shelter system in DC because he sees them as dirty and dangerous. Sleeping wherever he can find a sheltered spot outdoors is preferable. His homelessness has been complicated by a long-standing problem with drugs and alcohol which he says is never entirely under control. Like many homeless men and women, sobriety while living without shelter is extremely difficult. Donald says he may have an opportunity to get into a housing program in the near future. This morning he was trying to get enough money for the subway and a bus to get to an appointment. He just laughs when I told him that any program would most certainly require that he get clean and sober. Donald was willing to participate in the “Invisible Ones” photo project. I told him that I could not, in good conscience give him money for alcohol so we settled on some food and a cup of coffee. If you see Donald or someone like him, spend a moment having a conversation. Ask if you can help out in someway. I guarantee you’ll both be better off having had that experience.