Person First Project Vol. 9 – Alan


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. To read Alan’s full story, please visit Person First Project

Note: Alan is currently housed.

“I was homeless for six years all together; pretty well split between homeless on the street and homeless in the shelter system. I have experienced good and bad in people. I’ve asked someone what time it was and had them look at me like ‘What do you need to know what time it is for? You’re not going anywhere.’ I said ‘good morning’ to a lady one morning, and when she turned and she saw a homeless person, she turned her back. I didn’t ask her for anything, I just said good morning. So that was really bad.

But I’ve also experienced the good. I’ve experienced someone coming out of a restaurant with food, and just giving it to me, and I wasn’t even looking for it or asking for it.

One of the best good things I’ve experienced was this lady one winter morning. I was really cold, and this little old lady asked me my name – which was something that hadn’t happened in a couple of years – and said she was going to say a prayer for me, and gave me two dollars for a cup of coffee. I will always remember that lady for the rest of my life. I never have coffee and I don’t think of her. It wasn’t a long a conversation but, but she’s there every time I drink a cup of coffee.”

– Alan

12 Comment

  • “I said ‘good morning’ to a lady one morning, and when she turned and she saw a homeless person, she turned her back. I didn’t ask her for anything, I just said good morning. So that was really bad.”

    For what it’s worth, I have the exact same reaction to any random person who says ‘hi’ to me on the street – I turn to see if it’s someone I know. If it’s not, I don’t engage – especially if it’s a guy. Engaging almost always leads to harassment. I’m not sure this had anything to do with Alan being homeless.

    • That’s a pretty negative view to take. I understand cutting someone off the second they get creepy, but it doesn’t hurt to smile and say good morning back. You don’t have to engage in conversation, but it doesn’t help to just expect the worst in people. For what it’s worth, I don’t consider someone complimenting my appearance harassment (unless it’s of the “hey baby, great ass” variety). The one thing a lot of these person first project posts have in common is the feeling homeless people have of being invisible. Even a small acknowledgement in passing can have an impact on someone’s life. If we have that sort of power, why shouldn’t we use it?

      • I wish I felt safe saying ‘hi’ back to guys on the street, but I know from experience that it almost always ends badly. It’s unfortunate that women can’t walk down the street without being wary about harassment, but it’s reality.

        • What’s the worst that has happened? I did get a little weirded out once when the construction worker I said hi to every day tried to hug me… but I once had a gas station attendant in NJ lean into my car and kiss me as he was giving me my credit card back. Unwanted physical contact happens independently of engagement in my experience.

    • I have to agree, but also want to throw in that if I don’t know the person, I often think that they must be talking to someone behind me or something and feel stupid for looking in the first place.

  • That last story brought tears to my eyes. We never know the impact we have on people.

    • Yeah, me too.

    • Absolutely – there have been a few times in my life when someone has told me, “I’ll always remember when you did XYZ – it meant so much to me” and I didn’t recall the action at all. It just takes a second to pass on a kind word, say hello, smile at someone – and it might be just what they need.

  • It’s so interesting how you changed the subject from a man who was previously homeless to yourself. I was taught to return a hello to anyone who says hello to me, whether they be a homeless person or a king (not that I would ever meet a king). It’s just basic human and common courtsey. If the harrassment starts after the initial hello, I’m grown enough to know who to handle it.

    • Soulshadow55, I was taught the same thing. I believe the world would be a much more pleasant place of folks did exactly that.

  • This was touching. I’m glad he shared his story.

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