Another installment of the “Invisible Ones” of Washington, DC
This is Morgan. I met Morgan outside of Union Station in Washington, DC. He wasn’t panhandling, just sitting on a low wall with a small plastic bag from a local hospital, the type that you might get when you are discharged. I asked him about the bag and he showed me his frostbitten fingers and pointed to his foot, which he said had frostbite as well. He says he spent yesterday in the hospital getting treatments but couldn’t stay any longer because he wasn’t sick. Morgan says the frostbite will heal up and shows me the scarring on his other fingers that have been frozen in the past. I asked why he hadn’t taken advantage of the emergency hypothermia shelters when it was below freezing. He thinks he probably had passed out somewhere and was found in the morning and taken to the hospital. Morgan says he’s been living on the street for at least ten years, probably longer but he can’t remember very much. No family that he knows of and no prospects for anything better than surviving the Winter as best he can. He has a long history of drug and alcohol abuse and simply says, he needs to get through the day. Morgan also has very few teeth which he showed me by opening his mouth and pointing to how sunken into his face cheeks were. Morgan is an affable and conversational man if you take the time to speak with him. He is not aggressive nor does he bother anyone that passes by. He has had some experience with Social Services in DC as he mentions needing to get a case manager again. I told him that I contact a local outreach team that would try to help him. More importantly, I told him that he needs to get into a shelter in the days ahead as the temperature will be well below freezing. He was agreeable to that idea as well as allowing me to take his photograph in exchange for a hot coffee and some food. People like Morgan who are living without shelter during the Winter can and do freeze to death or experience severe cases of frostbite.
Washington, DC has a Hypothermia Plan. Under the city’s cold weather plan, services provided include access to emergency shelter and overnight warming sites. Designated public buildings may open at night to offer access to a warm, safe place. In addition, free transportation to a shelter or warming site is available to anyone homeless in the city during a cold weather alert. City officials say transportation may be obtained by calling 311 or the toll-free Shelter Hotline: (800) 535-7252. The numbers may be used by third parties to seek help for those appearing to need it. If you see someone in need please call the hotline number.