Homeless For The Holidays – McPherson Park — Part I
They occupy alleys and benches, the side doorways of office buildings and dead spaces behind dumpsters. They hobble along sidewalks, looking for change, food and clothing. “Can you spare quarters, dimes, nickels?” A homeless man asks each night near McPherson Park. Others linger near the metro entrance waiting for the van from Martha’s Table to serve dinner.
By the thousands, Washington, DC bears witness to the displaced who congregate in its parks and sidewalks. They wait for meals and clothing that are delivered by civic groups after the last of the rush hour traffic has dribbled back to the suburbs.
A few days before Christmas, vans pull up and the hungry appear from the night driven by the cold for a warm meal.
There’s temporary protection from weather which whips around the facade of the Veterans Administration building as it stands firm like a sentinel guarding them. The metro staff accepts that they’ll always inhabit this place. At midnight the night staff lower the metal gates and turn off the escalators and though there is a shelter at 4th & D, it’s a long trek for those who have no bus fare.In McPherson Park, a cold rain blows through the square, whistling through tree branches and wetting the grass. The homeless huddle in the nearby metro entrance a block from the White House. On this night the entrance finds only a few dozen waiting and offers them a damp marble floor. They share muffled conversations while some lay on cardboard. Among them Is a woman with a dog
Connie ‘Cookie’ Knight has been a metro employee for 14 years and hasn’t seen it this bad in the seven years that she has been assigned to work in the District. “There are more folks here than ever,” she says. “There are more Spanish folks out there now and even Asians are coming here.” She spoke of the changing demographics of the homeless and how it has changed over the last few years. “It is getting mixed more now than ever, there are more women than before and the change has largely come over the last five years.” She spoke of recent efforts metro has made to put people on buses during the coldest nights when temperatures drop . . .