As policy director here at the Law Center, my work tends toward the macro level: big-picture homelessness programs and funding. Since the economic crisis gripped the nation, Congress and the Administration have paid increased attention to the people who find themselves battling to obtain and/or maintain a place they can call home.
As an individual living and working in the D.C. area, however, I see homelessness on the micro-level. When my wife and I drive to work every morning we pass a panhandler who weaves between the cars, shaking a cup as he approaches each vehicle at the stoplight. As we get closer to the parking garage we pass other people carrying all their belongings around the city. I sometimes see city-issued blankets stashed by homeless people inside the newspaper machines on the corner. Near the Law Center, there is a gentleman who usually sits with his shopping cart on the corner. Each day, his refrain is the same: “Help Out! Help Out! Help Out!”
Help out. I like to think that that is what I am doing every day at the Law Center as we advocate for the human right to housing, increased funding for targeted homeless programs, and more. It would be easy to tune this voice out, and even easier to turn away from the men and women who approach me on K Street at lunchtime. I see so many people look past them. I worry about growing numb to the plight of the actual people who face the dangers of homelessness every day.
The man on the corner has not been around lately. I wonder about him. I would like to think he found shelter and a place for his things. I pray that he found the supportive services needed by so many homeless individuals. I know that might not be the case. But in the face of all this uncertainty, his refrain stays in my ears: Help out. I pass his charge to anyone who reads this. Help out! Help out! Help out! It is something we can all do, and sometimes it is all we can do…
-Jason Small, Policy Director