Another installment of “The Invisible Ones” of Washington, DC
Joyce has been living on the streets of Washington DC since 2011. For the past two years she has occupied the spot where I met her this morning. She stores her belongings in plastic bags behind some bushes near the “L” street underpass between 1st & 2nd Streets NE, in Washington, DC and sits on a low concrete wall greeting the morning commuters as they walk from the gentrified neighborhoods in NE to the NOMA Metro station. Joyce is an articulate and affable woman who has in the past held jobs as a housekeeper in a hotel and as a Nanny. This was while she was living in Philadelphia. The story of why she lost these jobs is a little confusing and convoluted as it is mixed in with a variety personal problems. Joyce is absolutely clear about one thing – living on the street is far better than any shelter in the city. She puts it this way, “if you’re not crazy before you go to the shelter, you will definitely be that way once you leave.” She says she has only been beaten and robbed once since living on the street. In the shelters it’s a common thing which is why everyone there carries a weapon to protect themselves.
Joyce readily admits that life gets very hard for her when Winter comes on. She tries to budget money for emergency stays in a SRO hotel that she uses when the need arises. She also takes advantage of the hypothermia buses that the city deploys when it’s really cold. As with many of the homeless that I meet, Joyce has her benefactors that will stop and chat and give her provisions and/or money. She is gracious and grateful for their kindness. When I told her about the Invisible Ones project her comment was, “you’re damn right about that, I feel like a damn ghost most of the time.” She was agreeable to this photograph in exchange for a small sum of money. If you’re in Joyce’s neighborhood stop by and say hello, she has a story to tell and it’s worth listening to. You’ll both feel better for having had that experience.