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 joined the Navy in 1978 and I was honorably discharged because I have manic depression so my thoughts tend to race a lot. So when I first moved out on my own, I was smoking a lot with the mood swings and the drug addiction.
Before Saint Elizabeth hospital was taken over by the D.C. Government they had a lot of long-term programs. So when I was homeless and wasn’t doing too well, I’d be there. I’d spent months and sometimes years in there. So housing wasn’t a big issue; we always had someplace to go: psych ward, detox, or something. As these things started being cut out, I started realizing I’m actually homeless. I’m going to all these places but they’re discharging me and I have no place to go. I had no rental history. I had severe mood swings. I couldn’t stay sober. They called me ‘treatment resistant.’ The addiction was so strong. No matter how much I wanted to stop, I just couldn’t.
One of those particular times when I was in the psych ward and got discharged on the streets, I had an incident happen and I contracted HIV. I seroconverted* shortly after that in the street.”
-Waldon (formerly homeless at the Housing First Rally in Chinatown)
*Seroconversion is the period of time during which HIV antibodies develop and become detectable. Seroconversion generally takes place within a few weeks of initial infection. It is often, but not always, accompanied by flu-like symptoms including fever, rash, muscle aches and swollen lymph nodes.”