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 was homeless for thirty-something years. My pop died and I couldn’t afford to pay my rent. I lost my job working at Fort McNair as a dishwasher… they cut back on jobs, and I found myself on the street.
The first night I was on the street I slept behind the Library of Congress on a concrete bench. It was the summertime. It wasn’t too bad. In the winter you can’t find enough blankets or clothes to put on to keep yourself warm in the winter. Nobody wants you on their porch or under their restaurants. Everyone wants to kick you back onto the streets.
Men, women, children – it’s not good to see people on the street of any color or any race. There could be a lot of affordable housing but there’s really not. The more they put up condos, the more people that will be on the street, and that’s not a pretty picture. Homelessness carries a very ugly stigma.
Reed Sandridge is a very good friend of mine. He’s on the board of Street Sense and he’s been there with me through thick and thin of my homelessness – he was there when I first signed my lease.
I met Mr. Reed during the Year of Giving. I was standing on the corner of 19th and M Street and he came up and talked to me. He said, “Can I ask you something about yourself? I’ll give you $10. You don’t have to talk to me if you don’t want to.” I told him my whole story and we became good friends after that.
He put me on the website when I said I needed a pair of boots, and some friends of his bought me some boots… socks, underwear, shirts, pants, gloves. I told him exactly what I needed and he put it on the website. People bought it and sent it to him and he brought it to me. A young lady sent me a handmade quilt from Texas. I still have it. I’d never get rid of that. I’ve sent her thank you cards, pictures of me and Reed together… everyone that sent me something, I sent thank you cards through Mr. Reed.
So I got together with Mr. Reed and Stephanie – she works for Pathways to Housing DC . We had meeting after meeting. She finally told me, ‘I got you a place!’ It’s through Catholic Charities USA. I signed my lease on July 15th of 2013, so I’m coming up on two years. On my one-year anniversary we celebrated and all my friends came.”
*Read more about Anthony and Reed’s friendship and the long-term impact of peer mentorship at http://anthonyandme.com/. To find out more about Reed’s project, the “Year of Giving”, please visit http://yearofgiving.org.