Another installment of the Invisible Ones of Washington, DC
Ronnie is a 62 year old man who has been living on the streets of Washington, DC without shelter. I came across Ronnie near the Farragut North Metro station in Washington, DC during the height of the morning rush to work. This is a very busy commercial neighborhood populated by all manner of office buildings and professional workers. In spite of this street traffic Ronnie had nothing in his panhandling cup. When I asked him about that he just shrugged saying, “it is what it is.” Ronnie has been on the streets of DC for about 10 years as best he can recall. He has no family and has not been involved with any social service organizations beyond the church operated soup kitchens. When I asked where he sleeps, he gestured to the park in Farragut Square where he stores his belongings during the day. Staying in a city run shelter is not an option he says given the filthy and dangerous conditions. He is always amused when he hears that city outreach workers say that there are plenty of beds at the shelters and that no one needs to sleep outside. Like so many of DC’s homeless, Ronnie would be willing to work at odd jobs if only someone would hire him. Not having a fixed address makes employment all the more difficult to find. He speaks eloquently of being invisible and how on some level this gives him a sense of identity and accomplishment. He sums it up by saying,” that not many people can survive these streets, so I must be doing something right.” This kind of resilience is not uncommon among the homeless people that I meet. I always tell them that after meeting with them whatever trials and tribulations that I have seem trifling by comparison. This always elicits a smile and a laugh. Ronnie was more than happy to participate in the Invisible Ones photo project. If you see Ronnie help him out, you’ll both feel better having shared that experience.