This is Antonio Francisco
I met Antonio Francisco on the steps of a church that serves as a drop in location in NW Washington, DC. He had just finished his breakfast and was getting ready to make his way to his regular panhandling spot in the Georgetown neighborhood in time for the morning rush of commuters. Antonio came to DC about 10 years ago from Brooklyn,NY where he was born and raised. He had lost his apartment in Brooklyn because he could no longer afford the rent. This was complicated by a serious addiction problem which resulted in numerous incarcerations and alienation from his family. After his last stay in jail in NYC, he decided to start over and made his way to DC. Sadly his untreated addiction to substances came with him and other than being 15 years older nothing much has changed. He does say that at age 65 he doesn’t have the endurance to do what he used to do so he gets by with panhandling. As he got up from where he was sitting he unfolded a walking cane for the blind and started to tap his way down the sidewalk. I walked with him for awhile and said I would not have guessed he was blind. He said that’s what most people say until I show them. He stopped and held open his droopy eyelids with his fingers. His entire eye was a milky white. He then says with a big grin,”you wanna help out an old blind man?” I sat him down again and we had a chat about my photo project. I told him that in good conscience I could not give him money for drugs and alcohol but would give him a food voucher and a new pair of wool socks. He was amenable to that deal and allowed me to take his photograph and use it in the Invisible Ones Project. It is hard enough being homeless in Washington, DC in the Winter. Add to that a problem with addiction plus blindness and you have what for most people would be an impossible situation. Consider that as you make your way to work during the coming Winter months and pass by a homeless man or woman on the street. Perhaps you could stop and have a conversation or ask if you could help out in someway. I promise you’ll both be better off having had that experience.