Empty Encampment

mo_572_.jpg This is the entrance to a Pepco power station on E Street near New Jersey Ave NW. There’s usually a homeless guy named Reggie camped out under the awning here, but lately he’s been gone, and the awning has been vacant. (Pepco put up the gate and NO TRESPASSING signs to try and keep him out, but he just used it as a way to pitch a tent.)

Saturday afternoon, I found a tired-looking, middle-aged black woman sitting in Reggie’s spot. I asked him if she knew were he was, and she answered, “Legally, I’m his wife. He’s in jail.” She was undergoing treatment for thyroid cancer — not a grift, as the large, painful-looking lump on the side of her neck was quite prominent — and had just gotten out of the hospital, with nothing on her but the clothes on her back. Medicaid provided her with her three prescriptions for $1.50 each, and the local shelter would give her a bed for $5 a night, but she had not even that much on her. Her husband, obviously, would not be of any help. She would be able to visit him in prison on Tuesday, but she wasn’t sure she wanted to, since he had been philandering with DC’s other homeless females.

It rained that night, but she found shelter with the help of some cash and a copy of Street Sense from a kind stranger. I hope Reggie gets out of jail soon, and figures out how to get on his feet rather than go back to that awning.

Make friends with a homeless person and help her or him out — not necessarily with cash, but with some coffee or a hot meal once in a while. Yeah, sometimes they’re grifters, but more often they’re completely out of luck and don’t know how to start over. DC-area residents, TouchDC can point you to housing and employment charities if you’re interested in donating or volunteering.