New PoPville Series – Person First Project – “seeking to give those currently or formerly experiencing homelessness in D.C. the chance to share their stories” Vol. 1: Scooby


Ed. Note: This new series will appear every Friday.

Person First Project is a photo blog that seeks to give those currently or formerly experiencing homelessness in D.C. the chance to share their stories. In doing this, we hope to reduce the barriers that separate people in D.C. and spark a dialogue. The Person First Project aims to connect us – and to make us all feel a bit more human.

“This guy saw a group of black people sleeping outside and approached us asking for drugs. Well, we don’t sell drugs and we don’t use drugs so we had no answers for him, but he sat with us anyway. He was a doctor and he was all upset because he takes home $3,500 a month, but that’s only half his salary because the other half goes to student loans. We couldn’t believe it! Any one of use would’ve taken that situation and been happy with it. Hey man – the college career you’re paying for is going to earn you millions! And you’re complaining to us, asking us why we’re out here? Man, you don’t understand.

The biggest problem with this country is isolationism. In DC, the privileged communities encapsulate themselves – they build condos and everything they need so they don’t have to blend into the community, and then they move the underprivileged people out so they don’t have to intermingle. Afterwards, the privileged people sit together and talk about the exact same things that we underprivileged people talk about. The issue is that since we don’t all sit together to talk, we’re going to each end up with our own separate opinions.

Privileged people might get together, maybe have some coffee and tea and then talk about how to solve our problems, but the truth is that if you haven’t been where I’ve been then you won’t understand. It’s the same problem with a lot of service programs that come out here. That’s why I love Capitol Hill Group Ministry and Ebenezers Coffeehouse. They will actually approach us and ask, “Well, what is it that you need?” Because let me tell you, this guy was genuinely upset about his $3,500 a month! And the truth is, we can’t understand it and we can’t relate because we just don’t intermingle with you all.”

– Scooby

29 Comment

  • hammers

    this is a wonderful idea for a series. thank you.

    • +1. As someone who worked in the field for years, I’m glad to see Person First language employed, as well. All around good!

  • I like this feature

  • justinbc

    This is awesome. I’ve always wanted to do a photography / essay book on the homeless in DC and have the proceeds go to a relevant charity, but it’s a tough subject to get greenlighted and often tough to properly approach the material with the subjects. Glad to see someone found a way to do it respectfully.

  • This guy might be smarter and more of a realist than 90% of the people I work with on K Street. He has a good grasp on how the world (or at least the U.S.) really works.
    PS – pretty sad that I take home more than a doctor. And I have student loans too. Yikes.

    • I think the doctor was still in residency which would explain his stress and low income.

      • It sounds like he makes $7k a month take-home but puts half towards loans. $7k take-home each month puts you comfortably into the 6 figures in gross salary (probably in the neighborhood of $125k). I could be mistaken, but I do not think residents typically make that much.

    • hammers

      He certainly nails some points on the head. I often try to explain how segregated this city is. Sure, its “diverse” but all these groups of people live on top of each other like layers that dont mix at all.

      • The reason for the layers is cultural differences that prevent people from living in close quarters harmoniously. Case in point, my next door neighbors have very load conversations on their porch with friends until 0300 many weeknights. Everyone in my house has a job and must rise at 0600 to get there on time. Our “different culture” neighbors steal our sleep. We are told “it’s a southern thing”. Really?

  • Scooby spoke to Street Sense about preparing for this winter:

    Glad to see this series come to life!

  • PersonFirstProject

    For many more stories, and to read more from Scooby, be sure to check us out – press ‘like’ to subscribe to our biweekly interviews!

    • Cinnamonster

      Thanks so much for sharing Scooby’s story with us. I’m looking forward to checking out more of your interviews!

  • Great story! Scooby, thanks for taking the time to share some of your thoughts.
    Also, what kind of asshole complains to a group of homeless people about his $3500/month salary? How completely lacking in self awareness do you have to be to think that’s even remotely ok?

  • Dan: thank you for running this series. What a wondeful project. One step closer to ending homelessness in the District of Columbia!

  • Such a great project, well done!!!

  • I like this series very much.

    Scooby makes a very good point, and one that is frequently forgotten in discussions of poverty and social problems here in DC and around the world–too frequently the people trying to solve the problems aren’t even speaking to their target populations and the solutions they offer are consequently inefficient, not effective or poorly targeted.

    That’s not to say that the homeless have all of the answers to solving the problem of homelessness. But the answers certainly cannot be found without engaging them as human beings.

  • POP, thanks for using your platform to push for mutual understanding, interaction, etc. Looking forward to more of this.

  • Awesome series!!! Scooby is not alone, most think the homeless are crazy, but truth is we are all one major catastrophe away from his residence….

    On a Related Note: I need to find Kerrie Wylie. He is a homeless gentleman that used to be with my crew at 12th & Penn. We are worried about him, he was supposed to be at Christ House but he is not. Last time we saw him he was pretty bad off, he had a major gash on his lower leg, and was suffering. Any information would be outstanding!!! Thanks!

    • hammers

      it might help to give people a description, and the time he was last seen?

      • He is about 5-10″, @ 150 lbs. light colored eyes (brown or hazel). Always clean, great smile. I can’t give you a coat color, he went missing about a week before Christmas. Former chef at the white house. Light complexion black male about 55. Thanks!!!

  • I agree with pretty much everyone else; I love the new series!

  • On a semi related note… I saw a woman selling Street Sense this morning who also had a message handwritten on posterboard hanging from her neck. It said that Street Sense is not doing well and that they really need more support. I heard her say $10 as I passed (unfortunately I didn’t have any cash) but I’m not entirely sure whether she was asking for people to donate to the newspaper or trying to sell an issue for that much (asking for more than $2 appears to be against Street Sense’s vendor rules according to Wikipedia).

    Anyhow, their website seems to be down which sort of fueled my curiosity – does anyone know whether the newspaper is indeed struggling?

    • I haven’t heard that – or at least I don’t think they’re struggling any more or less than any other non-profit – and I certainly hope that’s not true. They do such amazing work and create such an important community. This is in violation of vendor rules, and you may want to send a message to Street Sense directly with a description of the vendor and what you saw/what they said.

  • this is inspired journalism. thank u, popville!

  • “the privileged people sit together and talk about the exact same things that we underprivileged people talk about.”


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