Another installment of “The Invisible Ones” of Washington, DC.
I noticed Lark sitting on a low retaining wall across the street from Union Station during a busy Friday morning rush hour. He was holding a old paper cup while rocking back and forth quietly chanting the same phrase over and over again, “No drugs, no whiskey, just need to get me some food.” When I finally approached him I noticed he had nothing in his cup. He speculated that this was not a good spot because all the passersby were just too busy and in a hurry to get to work. He had been at a different location on the East side of Capitol Hill last week but it became too dangerous at night to sleep outdoors so he moved on.
I asked about his name in that it was an interesting one. He said he was named for the famous Harlem Globetrotter basketball player, Meadowlark Lemon. Over the years he shortened it to just Lark. He reports that he’s been on the streets in DC for about seven years. Prior to that he had been working as a landscape worker but injured his back and was let go. He has not worked since then and has no income beyond panhandling. During the Winter he stays in the shelters but does so reluctantly because they are dangerous. I asked him about the rocking back and forth and he says he has “nerves” but wouldn’t elaborate about what that meant.
Lark is sadly fairly typical of the invisible homeless population. He is affable, friendly, conversational and not at all aggressive or frightening. He may as well also be a lamp post rather than a human being as no one even noticed him for the 20 minutes that I watched after I took his photograph. He was quite grateful for the food voucher I gave him in exchange for the photo.