I saw a tent sitting directly next to the outlet for a tunnel which was a major thoroughfare in downtown Washington, DC. The tunnel was next to a U.S. Department of Justice building near 320 First Avenue. As I walked up to the tent I was walking against traffic on the one lane roadway.
“Knock – knock,” I yelled as I got closer. I heard a raspy voice inside reply, “Can you unzip the door, I can’t really move.” As I unzipped the tent flap, an ice blue eyed man peered at me and said “What?” I told him I just wanted to see who lived so close to the road and I was curios to hear his story. I stated, “I’m just trying to bring a little more attention to the homeless situation in America.” He was sitting upright when I said that and he let out a gasp as he leaned back and said, “Thank God! Someone needs to know about us.” He then emptied a milk crate that was sitting inside his tent and grabbed his pillow that lacked a pillow case. He grabbed a large cup of urine and poured it outside the tent without getting up. “Sorry about that,” he said. He flipped the milk crate upside down and placed his pillow on top of it. “Have a seat, that way you can be comfortable,” he said with a pat of the pillow. “My name is Lou.”
He then begin to tell me how his tent was once located on the “other side” of DC. He said he had to move because he was beat up by gang members “just because” and everything he owned was stolen. He told me that this location was much safer. It was public.
As he continued to talk, cars would drive by and randomly honk. With each horn he would jump or twitch. “I am schizophrenic and bi-polar, plus I’m diabetic… but I have not seen a doctor,” he told me. He then talked about the pain he was experiencing when he stands on his feet. He told me his toes were “coming apart.”
He proceeded to remove his shoes and then his socks. He slowly took the sock off with his face scrunching up as if he had eaten something sour. Gasping for air after it was totally removed he said, “See what I mean?” He told me he has not had medication for his diabetes in quite some time. As for the mental illness, he had not had a prescription filled in “months.”
“I hate pissing in a cup and shitting in a bag, can you imagine living that way,” he asked me? “The offices near hear won’t let me enter their building and it hurts to walk anyway, so I have to use the bathroom in here, I can’t use it out there,” he stated while almost in tears.
This is his life.