One of “The Invisible Ones” of Washington, DC.
I came across Donnie on a recent hot and humid afternoon sitting on the sidewalk near one of Washington, DC’s newer luxury hotels. As is often the case in DC the juxtaposition of abject poverty and conspicuous wealth was on full display. Well attired business people and hotel guests were walking around Donnie on the sidewalk as if he were a traffic cone. When I approached Donnie and asked him if he needed anything, he flashed me a toothless grin and said, “I could use some teeth.” I offered him a food voucher and a bottle of water instead in exchange for this photograph.
Donnie has a long history of homelessness, at least ten years by his estimate. He has had permanent housing from time to time but ends up having to leave for reasons that he won’t get into. When I suggested drugs or criminal activity he just shakes his head, saying, “it’s hard.” Donnie’s main regret these days is that he has no education and no job skills. That combined with failing health makes him especially vulnerable to the difficulties he faces on the street. I asked him if being ignored by so many passersby made him feel bad in anyway. He just shrugs and says, “I guess they have other things to do than think about someone like me.” Such is the plight of being invisible on the streets of Washington, DC. If you see Donnie or someone like him, stop for a moment and ask how they are doing. Ask if you can help out in someway. I promise that the both of you will be better off for having had that experience.