Person First Project Vol. 7 – Robert


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.

“I went from a $2,800 a month, two bed, two bath condo to sleeping behind a condominium building and hiding underneath the steps ….I can recall the steps I was under. I think they were about three feet tall. I could sit underneath there. Living under there in the winter time, trying to stay warm, wondering if you were going to have to move first thing in the morning, in a blizzard. I was homeless before, on the street, in a blizzard. I can remember being blown across the street. I literally had to grab a hold of a pole to stop moving because of the wind. To stay warm on the streets in inclement weather is quite a challenge.

And then … I’m very conscious about my hygiene, about cleanliness. My wife and I, when we were together… have you ever seen the Odd Couple before? Felix and Oscar? My wife used to call me a black Felix. Being a marine too …so imagine the struggle of trying to keep your appearance up and stay clean. Everyone not wanting you to use their facilities. I used to go into a Starbucks or something, I’d go in there, in that bathroom and transform. I’d have bubbles everywhere. I’ve been fortunate and blessed that I was always able to find organizations that would assist me with hygiene products, clothing; little odd jobs here and there.

It takes a lot out of you, because a homeless individual has a much longer day than the average person. Whether he’s on the street or in the shelter, he has to hit the street and get moving at a very early time; it’s usually six in the morning, regardless of the weather. If you’re on the back dock somewhere, security’s coming in and you got to move on because what most people think of as the ‘real people’ are coming to go to work. Homeless people, and homeless veterans, are people too.”

– Robert (formerly homeless)

5 Comment

  • This breaks my heart – never leave a Marine behind. I know there are organizations and people that will help this man. He might not want that kind of help, and I don’t know the circumstances as to why he is homeless….but a homeless veteran makes me sick, as an American, to know how many there are. Such a failure of our most promised responsibility.

  • I know this project is about giving homeless individuals a platform for which to tell their stories in their own words, however they see fit, but I do wish they also mentioned how they got to the point, and in this case, how he got out (since it says he’s “formerly homeless”). I know that would go far toward helping us understand the struggles of homeless individuals.

    • While it would be interesting to hear the how they become homeless and how they successfully transition off the streets – I can appreciate why someone may not want to share that. I look at this as a moment of time that they’ve chosen to share and I’m grateful for that.

    • If you go to their facebook page(it’s linked in the post) there’s more posts from Robert. In one of them he explains how he wound up with housing:
      “Right now I am currently housed by the grace of God – and by Obama and Biden’s legislation to get all homeless veterans off the street by 2015. I received a HUD voucher, which is a voucher for housing – it’s a joint venture between HUD and the VA. I’ve had it now for a couple years. I’m distributing Street Sense publications as well as trying to earn an income. I’m still seeking employment.”

  • The point about how a homeless person’s day is much longer than the average person’s day was something that I actually was thinking about last night on my commute home. I remember the conversations at an ANC mtg several years ago and people were complaining about the congregation of homeless individuals at certain times of day near the shelter. In that meeting, we learned what time the homeless got booted from the shelter and what time they needed to be back to claim a bed for the night. We also heard from someone regarding favorite hang-out spots in the city – i.e. where the homeless could bathe or even just be inside for awhile without being bothered. Now when I walk into a public establishment and see locks on restrooms requiring a key/code, or when I walk into the public library and see others who I suspect are homeless camping out, or when I see a large gathering outside of the shelter at opening/closing time – I have a different point of view.

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