Person First Project – Joseph: “That’s what they call it, schizophrenia”


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.

“That’s what they call it, schizophrenia

How I dealt with it? Well, I tried not to be like the rest of them that I saw that be talkin’ to themselves on the streets. So I would try to hold it back until I got, in some way, quietly, talking back to it. It got to the point where sometimes I would forget. One time I was on the X2 going home, and people were looking at me, and I said ‘Oh, I was speaking out loud. Oh my God!’ If it wasn’t for that one lady who came up to me and said, ‘My cousin does that, don’t take it too hard, he still functions.’ So I felt a little good, but still I felt like I was a misfit.

From that time on, my [family] turned their backs to me, so it got to the point where that’s how I got in the streets.

They figured there were drugs messing with me. But it wasn’t drugs; whatever was messin’ with me was just messin’ with me. I would accept it was drugs, because I didn’t know what was messin’ with me. I looked at the small things so I wouldn’t have to look at the big things.”

How old were you when you first moved out onto the streets?

“27, 28. I started [hearing voices] when I was about 25, but I finally was put out about 27 or 26.

[The voices] try to … If they know you have something to do that day, they make me not go to it. Like sometimes, the store will be across the street, but I’ll forced to use the other store across the street. I know that’s crazy but, it happens.

I got off the X2 bus, and I needed some bleach. The Dollar Store is down the street, and I’m about to go cross the street, but something wouldn’t let me go across the street. It just, my body just went south. So I went back to the high-priced 24-Hour store and paid $4 for something I’d pay $1.50 for down there. I’m looking at where I gotta go, but couldn’t go. I wasn’t high. I wasn’t doing anything. I knew where I had to get and why and price is lower.

Then when you get in the house is tears you up. The voices go through and tear you up even more.

[Mental health] services gonna start at SOME. Matter of fact, I go to a psychiatrist on the 21st of this month.”

– Joseph

Joseph is staying at Central Union Mission on Massachusetts Ave. NW, next to Union Station.

5 Comment

  • Good luck Joseph. Really hoping his appointment goes well and he gets the help he truly seems to want. We don’t treat other diseases by shaming the afflicted; we need to stop doing so with mental health diseases as well.

  • Glad to see this series – it’s so easy to pass by homeless people, to assume they’ve somehow contributed to their own fate. Joseph sounds like he’s coping remarkably well, given his situation. All best wishes to you, Joseph.

  • I had an uncle that was schizophrenic. He was married young and had two kids when it started to become apparent that something ‘wasn’t right’. Luckily, my grandparents and his siblings were able to step in and help with the children while he began treatment. Such a debilitating and misunderstood disease. I feel for Joseph and I wish him well in his therapy and hope he finds a support network.

  • I hope the city charges his family extra taxes for our dollar efforts to assist this guy. His family should be criminally liable for mishandling his mental health. I really hope POP tracks his family down and humiliates them on this page. They are the definition of pure evil. They have a family member who needs medicine and help and they threw him out.

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