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 homeless. I don’t go to shelters… too crowded, too drug infested. Folks are dying. We just had a guy die in the shelter, you know, drug use. Young kids, mostly younger guys, they fall out and don’t wake back up. This happened yesterday. It’s not a safe environment. I think out here, it’s a little safer because there’s a group of us.
I’m proudest of holding onto my friends, what friends I got. I value my friendships. I’ve got a street family. It’s kind of hard to hold onto folks. They are homeless too. They don’t like going in the shelter – pretty much the same reasons. We sleep over there, at the [McPherson Square Metro] station. We celebrate the holidays together. We just make sure everyone has blankets, things of that nature. It’s a struggle. It’s a really depressing situation.
I don’t wanna be living on somebody else’s account. I’d like to try to get a job. I work a little bit off and on, but I don’t know, it just don’t add up. I’ve seen all kinds of folks out here, everybody got a story. Folks know you’re homeless, it’s kind of embarrassing at times when you don’t have anything. I got to the point where if I don’t have it, I do without.
I did landscaping, painting, bricklaying, things like that. I still do things like that, but it’s day work. I still do landscaping jobs now, like somebody’s house I know, I’ll go to and do the yard. That’s a good job because in the summer time that will be like three times a month. And moving furniture from a U-Haul to storage, two or three times a month. With day work, I make maybe $80, $85 tops a day for like three or four hours of work. That’s it. [Housing] is not affordable.
It will get you by, but I don’t wanna be like this for the rest of my life. My name has been on the housing list in Washington since 2002. I’ve been out here ever since. It’s a long list, I mean thousands of folks.
I try to stay out of trouble. I try to stay out of the court system, ‘cause that’s even worse. It’s easy to get involved in anything out here.
I was incarcerated for some time, almost a decade.”
Has having a criminal record been an impediment to getting a job?
“Yeah. It was a problem having a record. I would apply, and I wanted to say that I was, you know, convicted, because of a serious crime, a felony. So I would put that on there, and they would look it up, and then they act like they don’t want to hire you.
My felony charge was B&E [breaking and entering], when I was kid. I did that when I was a kid. I did the time though. Breaking into a house; it was nothing to be proud about. That was many, many years ago. I learned a valuable lesson from it. I guess as a kid I didn’t think like I did when I grew up. That’s time I’ll never get back.”
Richard has been homeless since 2002. He sleeps at the McPherson Square Metro stop.