Another installment of “The Invisible Ones” of Washington, DC
I came across Peaches outside of Union Station sitting on the edge of the once working and beautiful Columbus fountain that occupies the front of Union Station known as Columbus Circle. The structure now serves as a make shift shelter for dozens of people who are homeless and can be found sleeping or just sitting surrounded by piles of tattered blankets and trash bags stuffed with their worldly posessions. Peaches was sitting surrounded by two large mounds of clothing, blankets and other material. These inanimate mounds turned out to be two other women who were homeless that declined to be photographed and remained covered by their blankets. As cn be seen in the photograph, Peaches has a pained expression which prompted me to ask how she was feeling and if she needed anything that I could provide. Her response caught me by surprise when she broke into a sing song voice and proclaimed that,”she was truly blessed and that each day was a gift that made her feel happy to be alive.” This in not a particularly uncommon sentiment among people who are living without shelter on the streets of DC. While it appears incongruent with their surroundings it does speak to a unbiding sense of optimism that things will be better. As for Peaches, she has been living on the streets without shelter for more than two years. Her preferred sleeping arrangement is outdoors in the company of others which she feels is much safer than any of the shelters. She allows that this will change as the colder weather begins to arrive in the Fall. Peaches won’t say much about her personal history beyond repeating her mantra of how blessed she is. When asked what she needed on this particular morning, she said, “that coffee and a bagel would be a blessing.” She was willing to allow me this photograph in exchange for the food. If you’re at Union Station and need to kill some time, take a walk around the Columbus Fountain and say hello to the dozen or so men and women who call this home. The experience will be good for you and them.