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This is part of an ongoing project called “People In Your Neighborhood

“I’m running from the French,

I’ve got to sit on a bench,

This is what I do,

I want to pee and poo.”

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Kelly

kellz

This is part of an ongoing project called “People In Your Neighborhood

“Hey! Are you still doing those interviews? Can I have one?”

So Kelly sat down and told us his story.

After he graduated from George P. Butler High in Augusta, Georgia, he went into military service on delayed entry and did a tour in Ecuador. There, he observed that the country was very poor and suffered from bad infrastructure and violence.  During his service in 1986, his squad leader was killed and Kelly tried to save him. “I had so much blood on me that they thought I’d killed him. It’s pretty traumatic to see someone die.”  A couple years later, Kelly was shipped overseas. Kelly recalled the wild and heart-racing story of how he was caught in a violent storm in a helicopter, and how he maneuvered the helicopter by breaking the throttle to get him and the other passengers to a safe altitude.

He very recently bought an apartment and is starting to receive back pay for his military service.

-Heather

Kei

Ke.... (very long name)This is part of an ongoing project called “People In Your Neighborhood

Kei’s greatest struggle is “following through with ineptitude.”  When he was younger, he used to eat Korean food quite often. He yearns for the taste of kimchi once more.

When Kei was 18, he changed his name from a Hawaiian 38-letter name to Kei. A man with a sense of humor, he loves to tell jokes and make people smile.

“How do you get holy water?”
“How?”
“You boil the hell out of it.”

However, at times he struggles with “staying on task and making sure [he] does everything in the right way and not cause trouble”. Prejudiced individuals make living and surviving very difficult for Kei and the other people like him. He has had two jobs, but he unfortunately lost both of them jobs due to the racism of his employers and customers. They would make comments, which “killed [his] self concept,”, and Kei felt that it wasn’t worth keeping the job when he was emotionally and verbally abused in this way.

“I just wanna see a society where the people don’t care whatchu look like and whatchu wear.”  To students, he encourages everyone to be themselves and to not let others’ negativity bring you down.

-Rebecca and Alice

Sharice

Sharice

This is part of an ongoing project called “People In Your Neighborhood

Sharice has always lived in the DC area. She hasn’t always lived near Franklin Square but always pretty close to it. Whenever she talked, she always had a crooked smile on her face – but her eyes, they had a lifelessness about them. When we asked her what her happiest moment was in her life, she said “Ya know, I haven’t had it yet.” Her greatest struggle is “survival of indifference” as we need more shelters and help from others. She said that “society is on a grind” but wasn’t willing to talk deep into what she meant by that, along with many other questions she was hesitant of answering. “You’re too young,” she said. “I don’t want to have to burden y’all with it.”

-Rebecca

Fluff

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This is part of an ongoing project called “People In Your Neighborhood

Fluff is an entertainer. He performs and records Reggae music. He came to DC in ‘84 and his newest album is titled, “I’m a Washingtonian”. Fluff has a great insight into the situation and mindset of the people here in McPherson Square.  He loves all of them, and acknowledges how sad it is that people walking around this square look down on the homeless people, but fail to realize that many of them are doctors, lawyers, and artists who have unfortunately lost their jobs.  Their current situation is so difficult that many people become sick.  “See that woman over there?”, he says, “She’s the sweetest woman, and she’s been on that bench so long it’s all she knows.” The idea of ownership is so abstract to the people here that staying in a shelter, where people are offered a bed and their own space seems like being stuck in prison.  Because it is so different to actually sleep in a bed and have their own belongings, many of the homeless feel uncomfortable at shelters.  They don’t even feel secure leaving their shoes at their bedside, because they fear that someone will come in at night and steal them. At the same time, these shelters are necessary because the people cannot stay in the park at night.  Because of budget cuts and other regulations, many shelters will be closing down soon, and Fluff worries, “My God, where will these people go?”

Fluff has optimistic plans for the future.  He wants to continue making music at the studio and producing albums.  If he gets the job as a security guard, which he is currently applying for, he promises to come back to the park with great bags of the excess clothes that he has and donate them to everyone in the park.

Heather

Keith

Keith

This is part of an ongoing project called “People In Your Neighborhood

To be honest, I was scared going into this project.  What if the people we were helping didn’t want to talk to us? Keith was the first man I interviewed, and talking with him reassured me that serving food wasn’t the only thing that helped the homeless people- talking with them was.  Keith was so excited to share his story, so enthusiastic to answer questions. “More questions! More questions!”, he exclaimed.  This is when I realized that talking to people, sharing stories, and extending advice was therapeutic for the people that we served. Keith was introduced to drugs many years ago.  He didn’t know what they were when he took them, but once he tried it, he couldn’t stop. Things spun out of control. He remembers the happiest moments of his life as the times before he did drugs, when he enjoyed martial arts, tai chi, and had a car.  Now, Keith is working to gain control of his life again, by going to church every Sunday.  As a result of his experience, Keith advises others to “stay away from drugs.  Go to college, create opportunity for yourself, and enjoy your life.”

Heather

Andre

Center: Andre

Pictured, from left to right: Andy, Andre, Michael

This is part of an ongoing project called “People In Your Neighborhood

From the moment I saw and heard him speak, I knew, in the back of my mind, that he wasn’t like the others. He had equanimity, wisdom, and unwavering self-composure in his voice that reminded me much of my very own father. Apparently, instead of becoming homeless by a misfortune, Andre became homeless by choice. Upon asking why, he replied that he had noticed small hints of the world changing, particularly within the people. People who once had warm-hearts, he said, turned “cold-hearted and callous.” While the richer got richer, the poor got poorer. Andre told us that his inspiration came mostly from the Bible, which he carries around in his worn-out bag and reads almost every day. He has a devotion to God;  to this day, he walks to church every Sunday to partake in the service. After eating the food, he graciously thanked us before walking off to somewhere, possibly back to an abandoned warehouse where he was staying for the night. He was a nomad. He was also a maverick.

Andy