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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 from northwest D.C. but I was born in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. I slept outside a long, long time ago. It was hot at first but then I got cold and I went to the shelter. I didn’t like the shelter because they take your property – other ladies will take your stuff. But it’s been a long time. When the Metro bus ran over my bad foot I had to go to the hospital for six or seven months. When I got released my sister said I could stay with her. I’ve been with her ever since.

All of my right side is paralyzed from birth because I had spinal meningitis. I don’t like the way I walk – I limp. I have a cane so I don’t think I can get a job. But then again, I see other people with canes that work. I’ve seen people in wheelchairs that work.”

What do you do every day?

“Nothing. Sit here. Panhandle. Feed the little birds. I like feeding the birds, but not the pigeons. They try to take the food from the little birds. See the little birdie?

I’m not doing anything for Thanksgiving. My sister and her husband are probably going to his sister’s house – they might bring me a plate back. I wish I was having a nice turkey dinner.”

With who?

“Anybody.”

– Della

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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. (more…)

pop

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.

“When my mother got sick, we lost our home. We’d been renting and we couldn’t afford to stay there anymore. I was about six or seven years old at the time.

She had kidney failure. My grandmother had it, and it was passed down. My mom wouldn’t let anyone in the family give her a kidney because the disease is hereditary. She was so worried that we’d end up needing ours.

My mother was working and she tried not to let it take it a toll. She was in a contracting position for the government. My father works for the government as well and that’s how they met each other – they were working at the same naval base. (more…)

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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. (more…)

Chris October 2015

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’ve only been homeless for a few months. It’s not because I was locked up, a criminal or on drugs. It’s nothing like that. The only reason is housing. There’s a housing shortage in D.C. They actually stopped taking people. There’s a big population of homeless all over. You [not] only have single men as homeless, you have families, single women. They have priority.

As far as the housing system in D.C. – it is bad. It doesn’t seem like the initiative thought of affordable housing for the poor because all the private contractors got eight of nine condos up. They build all these places up and not think about the poor and the middle class. There’s no affordable housing. (more…)

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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.

Author’s Note: George was interviewed near Central Union Mission near Massachusetts Ave. and New Jersey Ave. NW.

“I believe it’s depression. I have family members who are diagnosed with it so I’m pretty sure I have that same spirit. But I try not to go to the doctors because I don’t want to be prescribed medication, because I see what it does to my family. It makes them zombies. All they want to do is sleep all day. I don’t want to be that way. So I try to cope with it, to go through it, but sometimes it’s just so heavy. I just can’t. I end up self-destructing.

It’s pretty much ups and downs. From what I’ve read, it’s called manic. You’re up and you’re ready to do things and you want to do things. I get that way, and I get to work and I love my job. I never have any complaints about my job, I love working. But then all of the sudden I feel like I become anti-social. I don’t want to be around people. I get upset, I get angry, so I just separate myself. And that’s when I stop going to work, and I just hide in a cave for a few months.

I worked in food service for about 11 years, and then I started getting into construction. I did a little bit of courier service. I do all kinds of stuff. I do whatever people don’t want to do, I’ll do it. The last job I had was in an oil field. It was pipe inspection. It was a good job, a great job. But I just – boom, all of the sudden I didn’t want to be around anybody.”

– George

Author’s Note: I included three posts and three photos to help better tell George’s full story. (more…)

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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 from Washington, D.C. I was raised in northeast, right across the street from Hechinger mall. John Hechinger owned a house on the block that my family lived in. My family was one of the first black families to move in to that neighborhood.

I was an alcoholic as a child. That sounds pretty wild to say, but even as an alcoholic child I had a pretty good childhood. I experienced several traumas as a kid, but the biggest trauma was losing my brother, my grandfather, and my godmother at seven years old. Very sad. I withdrew. My mother was just devastated, she was never the same. (more…)

william

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.

“What would you say is your biggest fear in life?”

“Dying. Dying homeless.”

-William

Author’s Note: We met William on H Street, NE back in January.

james

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. (more…)

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.

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“I’m okay…. But, it’s just… help. I need help.”

What kind of help?

“That’s just it. I don’t even know. I’m good financially; I’m on social security. But the steps are what I’m having trouble with. The steps to get my own place, having my own food, never asking nobody for nothin’… that’s where I want to be at.

Say if you were in my shoes. You have about $1,100 you get on the third of the month. You ain’t got bills or a place to stay. No phone. No responsibilities, no nothing. I’m homeless. How would you manage? For me, soon as I get it, three days and it’s back to square one. Spent because I smoke K2.”

Doesn’t that scare you? I’ve heard a lot about the side effects of K2.

“I ain’t gonna sit here and lie. The other day – this dude was passed out by Union Station. He had a joint and a cigarette. I don’t know what was in that blunt, but next thing I know my blood pressure was 120/60 and I was in the hospital. Took this blunt and it put me in the motherf*cking hospital.

This is my real first time being homeless. I’ve been out here a couple weeks now. It’s messed up. My life is so glum. My life is so dull. I mean, I’m not going to sit here and stress, but I kind of have to because I can’t call my baby’s mother on the phone anymore. I can’t talk to my child anymore. I can’t even send them money. That’s messing me up. That’s really taking its toll on me right now.”

– Allen

Author’s note: We met Allen in a small park at New Jersey Ave and 1st St NW.