Another installment of the “Invisible Ones” of Washington, DC
I have seen Ulysses in the NOMA neighborhood of Washington, DC for the better part of two years. He is one of the few people who are homeless that does not move around a great deal. He is generally sitting under the M Street overpass along with his pile of blankets, plastic bags, and assorted personal belongings. He will at some point during the day stuff all of this material into a large military style duffle bag and move a few blocks West to sit in front of a CVS drug store. I have approached Ulysses on many occasions trying to engage him in some way. He has never responded to any of my overtures with as much as a look. I was headed to the NOMA subway stop one recent morning and saw Ulysses in his usual spot. Before I could say anything, he asked me if I could help him get something to eat. Not being one to allow a moment like this to pass, I took the opportunity to introduce myself and my photo documentary project. In return, Ulysses produced a self-made laminated ID badge with his photo, a photo of the Capitol Dome, a birthdate of Jan 14, 1974, and the words, “In God we trust” Ulysses S. Grant III. I’d like to say that we had a conversation but sadly, I think Ulysses has some serious mental health issues as it was almost impossible to make sense of what he was talking about beyond being homeless for at least 10 years and needing something to eat. I agreed to help him out in exchange for this photograph. He would not look at me but was otherwise cooperative and for that, I must thank him. Ulysses is not hard to find and more often than not needs food, water, and basic living items. Apparently, he will not go to any of the shelters and sleeps outdoors year around. So if you see a pile of ratty blankets under the M Street overpass in NOMA. It may well be Ulysses. Say hello and ask if he’s eaten recently. You’ll both be better for the experience.