Another installment of “The Invisible Ones” of Washington, DC
I met Joshua one recent morning in the Farragut Square Park just a few blocks North of the White House. He was just waking up from a bundle of cardboard and blankets. Joshua tells me he has been homeless for about five years and suffers from “an undiagnosed neuropsychological condition.” He couldn’t or wouldn’t be more specific than that, only saying that doctors have told him that it’s untreatable. He doesn’t appear to be mentally ill and is actually quite friendly and conversational. He is from the Philadelphia area and is trying to get to a warmer climate for the Winter. He finds himself stuck in DC until he can get enough money together for a bus ticket. He says that compared to Philadelphia, things are much harder for a homeless person in DC. The police are more aggressive in moving people along who are sleeping in a public place such as the park, and panhandling is more of a challenge. He says that having his cat with him is a big help as it engages people in conversation and they are more inclined to make a donation. The downside of having his cat with him is that staying in a DC shelter is impossible as they won’t allow pets. This was not a problem in Philadelphia. Joshua was willing to participate in the invisible ones photo project in exchange for a small donation. His hope is that people will see his photo and help him to get to a warmer place before the seriously cold weather arrives. It always seems to be the case that passersby seem to care more for the well-being of the dog or cat belonging to the homeless person than for the person themselves. A warm fuzzy pet will beat a cardboard sign everytime. When people see or speak to a homeless person such as Joshua, it is tempting to make assumptions about their lifestyle choices because they appear so “normal” and unimpaired. I would suggest that it is important to ask yourself, who would choose to sleep on the streets of Washington, DC if they had other options. If you see Joshua or someone like him, stop and have a conversation. Ask if you can help out in some way. I guarantee you’ll both be better off for having had that experience.