I woke up early on Saturday morning and headed into DC for a photoshoot I had set up several months ago to take pictures of people doing yoga in an urban setting (it’s a little project of mine). While waiting for one other person, I sat on a bench chatting with two other yogis in Washington Circle Park when we heard one of the homeless people yelling something at us, but couldn’t really make out what he was saying. As most people in the city do (unfortunately), we shrugged our shoulders and continued on with our conversation.
Not a minute or two later, he walked up to us and then directed his comments at me. He looked at me and said “you can make a change with your camera.” (I had my camera out at this point.)
I was a little confused, but he went on. “You can make a change with your camera by taking pictures of us, the homeless. There’s a real problem in DC with homelessness. You can take pictures with your camera and send it to the Washington Post.”
My heart sunk.
“I’m an educated man,” he went on. “I went to Howard University. I had a job. But now I’m on disability. I can’t afford a place anywhere around here.”
He told us how awful the shelters are (which many people are aware of here), the fighting that goes on there, and the over crowding.
I just didn’t know what to say, but I stupidly blurted out that the Washington Post (or any media entity that large) would never accept my photos.
“Yes you can. You can make a difference,” he said.
I felt….hopeless. I didn’t know what to say or do. He was well-spoken and kind. He told us more details about his life, but I can’t remember everything because I always have to write things down, otherwise it flies right out of my memory. Then he thanked us for listening to him and said good-bye.
I should have gone after him and taken his picture and shared it on Instagram and this blog. I could have tagged some places in DC and maybe even Humans of New York, asking them to please help by coming to DC and taking pictures of DC’s homeless. It is a real problem and those in power have failed them because they are selfish and self-serving miscreants.
We walk by and ignore them, but they are here sleeping on the cold sidewalk, unable to secure food, shelter, or even healthcare. It’s not enough to throw money at them (if anyone even does that anymore), instead, the system itself has to change.
But the realist in me knows that I myself would be ignored. Nobody cares what I have to say. I’m a small nobody. A blip in the system.
And yet…I still want to help. I don’t know if I can make a difference, but maybe I can try?