Person First Project – James “so she would take my money and use it for drugs and we’d end up getting kicked out”


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’m not staying anywhere. I’m homeless.

Sometimes I go to my mother’s house, but she doesn’t let me stay there a lot. Sometimes I sleep on my grandmother’s porch. They don’t really want me over there neither, sleeping in the house, so I have to sneak and sleep on the porch sometimes.

Sometimes I might sleep at a bus stop or something. It’s very uncomfortable, because sometimes you have to sleep on hard objects. I’m not humiliated now, but back then I used to be a little humiliated, so I wouldn’t carry a sheet or a quilt or anything. I would do it in secret. Sometimes when I stay out I might have to sleep on a bench, or I might just walk all night until it’s time to go somewhere where I can get some shelter, or some water, or some food.

It’s hard to get housing because there’s a waiting list and it takes a long time.

It’s been like three years.


My mother, she was on drugs. I get SSI [Supplemental Security Income], so she would take my money and use it for drugs and we’d end up getting kicked out. I couldn’t afford to live anywhere else, so I’ve been homeless ever since.

It’s my mother, she takes a great portion of my check, and she doesn’t feed me. She takes like $400 of my check. She buys food and she doesn’t feed me food. She cussed me out. She called me all type of names. My brother, he’s not working, but he feeds me every blue moon. He might give me a piece of chicken or something. But they don’t give me any money, sometimes I have to borrow money just to get food and stuff like that.

Like, last week, all I had to eat was a pack of noodles. It has a six back and it cost like $1.25, but that’s what I had to eat throughout the week.

They treat me very cruelly.”


Author’s Note: James was interviewed on H Street NE where he was staying.

7 Comment

  • Are there services to get adults guardians? No reason he should be going hungry when he gets money. So sad his family abuses him like that.

  • This is absolutely abuse. It’s not only morally wrong, it is illegal and should absolutely be reported.

  • I want to invite him over for dinner. I feel like an asshole for the things I throw away right now.

  • he’s not a minor, so how can she still take money from his check?

    • She could still legally be his guardian, or she could just be stealing it. Social Security abuse/fraud is a huge thing. I have seen parents steal their kids’ checks and kids steal their parents’ checks. Often times in these situations, the adult child is disabled in such a way that they cannot adequately care for their own needs. There are group homes for adults in these situations, and I sincerely hope that someone is in touch with this man to guide him to the types of services he needs and is eligible for.

    • I’m guessing mail still goes to her home because he’s homeless and she steals it.

  • She is probably his representative payee, or has access to the bank account where the money is direct deposited. If there is someone he’d rather have as his payee he can go to the Social Security office (there’s one by the big chair and one at 2100 m st NW) with that person and ask for the payee to be changed. If he has a core service agency through the Department of Behavior Health, they may be able to be his payee or refer him to Bread for the City, which is the payee for several hundred people.

    If he’s his own payee he can also open a new bank account and tell SSA to start having money sent there, or ask for a “Direct Express” card, which is sort of like an EBT (food stamp card) in that it gets loaded with funds every month for people who don’t have bank accounts.

    He can also report his mother to SSA’s Office of the Inspector General they probably don’t have the resources to investigate every allegation. Quality Trust for People with Disabilities, Legal Aid Society, University Legal Services (which is close to H st!), and Bread for the City might be able to give him legal advice.

    Meanwhile, the SSI maximum is $721 a month. So even if he got all of it, there are basically no places in DC where he could just start renting. Only subsidized places are affordable on that level of income and they all have long wait lists.

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