Friday, September 19, 2008


Homeless in our Nation's Capital : 18th and F Streets NW

Many times, when I'm out taking pictures, I run into homeless people. Their circumstances always make me sad and leave me wondering how, in the most prosperous nation in the world, we have people living on the streets. I find it especially ironic in Washington. The other day, I ran across this gentleman. He was asleep on a ventilation grate near the Daughters of the American Revolution and the Red Cross Museum. In the winter, homeless people rig makeshift tents over these grates out of sheets and blankets and sleep in them at night to stay warm.

This photo commences my 100 Strangers series, wherein I'll be asking 100 strangers if I can take their picture and hear their story. I didn't get this gentleman's story as I didn't want to wake him, but I have no doubt it would have been one full of hardship and sadness.

Photo copyright: D.C. Confidential, 09/08


Virginia said...

Hot dog, your 100 Strangers is off and running! Can't wait to see more. You will be meet some nice people my friend. And hear some stories to break your heart.

marley said...

I can't wait to see more people and hear their stories. This is a really good idea for a feature.

Wayne said...

Good for you JM. Taking photos has given me more confidence in talking to strangers but I'm not at the point of being able to approach people to take their picture. I think this is a great idea.

Tash said...

I'm so glad you posted that photo - I often ask myself the same questions. I cannot imagine going thru harsh winters outside like that. I regularly see 2 homeless men, one lives by the freeway on-ramp in Long Beach where I get on. He gets some care from the people around, & I sometimes get him some lunch. The other one is in Palos Verdes who walks around with a briefcase with wheels. I cannot even imagine their stories. Again well done on this post!

D.C. Confidential said...

VJ: I finally decided I just need to dive in a do it! We'll see what happens. What I have to do is make sure I have adequate time and I'm not in a rush so I can actually hear people's stories and not just take their pictures.

Marley: It was all Virginia's idea based on a Flickr group she saw. We'll see what happens.

Wayne: I know where you're coming from. The really dumb thing for me is, tonight I went to a party where I didn't know anyone but the hostess and her family. I had 15 good opportunities to take a picture of someone and tell their story and I didn't. Ugh. Oh well. I'll get there!

Tash: I can't imagine it either. I think I'd never be warm, even on the grates which are blowing moist air. Good for you for helping where you can!

Anak Dokan said...

I just have a chance to read this blog and I feel lucky to read this.
Being living in a un-developed country where there're so many poor people making me thinking that USA might be a perfect country. People who lives there must be wealthy. Reading your writing, and looking at the pic now I understand even there in a very wealthy country there's always poor people. How does it feel to leave poorly in a wealthy country? It must be very hard.

Thanks for your sharing.

b.c. said...

good luck with the project, am looking forward to seeing them: i like this black and white very much too

Maya said...

Wow, you do like a challenge, don't you? I think it's a great idea. I wish I wasn't so shy, or I'd try it too!

I see homeless people a lot in Seattle. They tend to congregate most both where I live and where I work. So sad!

Professor said...

I love the idea of a 100 strangers- how marvelous! You may start a new photo blog trend!

And this is such a powerful yet thought provokingly sad picture... well done.

Mary Jo said...

Very sad! Thanks for sharing!

D.C. Confidential said...

Anak: Sadly, there are many, many poor and homeless people in the United States. One study I read once put the percentage of the American population that falls below the federal poverty line at 46%. That seems a bit high to me, but I wouldn't be surprised and it's accurate. As for homelessness, many of its root causes are drugs and mental illness. In terms of homelessness in D.C., this article from the Urban Institute recommends some solutions. America is a wonderful country to live in, but if you're poor, it's largely irrelevant where you live.

B.C.: Thanks! I'm looking forward to seeing them, too! LOL.

Maya: Liking a challenge is one way of looking at this. Being a glutton for punishment is another! :-) We'll see how it turns out. I have an idea or two percolating for some of the strangers I might photograph.

Prof: The 100 Strangers idea is actually a Flickr Group; I'm doing this independent of that group. (I didn't want to join Flickr, but I liked the idea.) As for this first picture, every time I look at it, I wish I'd had something to leave this guy that day, but I had nothing.

Virginia said...

I have worked with the homeless at a local church . INterestingly, the minister shared with us that summer is harder (here in B'ham it's brutal). Apparently the heat and staying hydrating is more difficult that the cold. I can't imagine either. On a positive note, I am learning that there are many many groups in my city that provide food and shelter. What a blessing they are.

D.C. Confidential said...

VJ: I can imagine being homeless in the South during the summer is as hard as being homeless in the North in winter. Extremes in weather make it rough all around.

Mary Jo: Thanks for your comment. Sorry I missed it. It must have posted while I was responding to those before you. Homelessness is sad. And it seems to be so unnecessary.