Another installment of the “Invisible Ones of Washington, DC.”
I came across Carlton early one weekday morning as he was panhandling on Connecticut Ave. just North of Dupont Circle in Washington, DC. Carlton is an affable and gregarious man who has no trouble engaging passersby. If you stop to talk he will tell you his life’s story and then some. I asked him about his being named Carlton, saying, “you mean Carlton like the cigarette?” to which he replied, “No, Carlton like the doorman on Rhoda.” For those old enough to remember, Rhoda was a TV sitcom in the late 70’s, Carlton was the voice of the building doorman. For some reason I found this fascinating that this homeless man would be a student of arcane TV trivia. Carlton went on to tell me that he has been homeless since the 1980’s but not continually. He has had periods of stable housing in City subsidized apartments. One of which he recently gave up due to the proliferation of crime and drug activity in the building. “A sad situation he says when it’s safer sleeping in the park then in an apartment.” Carlton works at odd jobs in the Dupont circle neighborhood, cleaning windows, picking up trash etc. He say’s it supplements his panhandling and disability income. In addition to everything else, Carlton is also mentally ill but stable on medication which he takes without fail, recognizing that to not stay medicated will take him down a bad road. Carlton is fond of pointing out other homeless people and offering his diagnostic assessment of their need for psychiatric care. He recognizes that this often doesn’t endear him to his peers.
I asked Carlton if he is ever bothered by how people just ignore him on the street or say rude things as they pass. He simply say’s, “it’s not my place to judge people.” Profound commentary from someone who is invisible and living on the margins.