Gregory has been homeless in DC for almost eight years. He stands bundled up holding this sign and a ripped up cup at the corner of 18th and Connecticut Ave. in downtown Washington, DC.
I spent about 45 minutes talking with Gregory. He is very soft-spoken and gentle. He says that he lost his job and his wife left him for another man about 8 years ago…the cocktail of events started a chain reaction that left him homeless and drinking. Gregory said he used to never drink…he said he didn’t even like the taste, but he felt that he was able to escape from the pain and depression that he suffered from by drinking. He paused and said that he has been sober for seven months now.
His voice got even softer and he fought off tears as he shared some of the painful memories. He told me that he had seen some doctors at one point and they wanted to give him pills for depression and mental illness. He never took them.
Like almost every homeless I have met, he does not stay in shelters due to the violence, theft, and poor conditions.
While we talk, a man who was eating at Fuddruckers came out and gave him a small box of food, said nothing, and left. Gregory continued to talk to me for a few minutes and then asked if I minded if he ate while we talked. He opened the container to find an order of French fries. He seemed hungry as he ate the entire box.
I asked him what he planned to do with the $10 and he replied, “I know exactly what I am going to do with it. I can get 3 meals at McDonald’s and have a dollar left over for something else…maybe something on the $1 menu.” His favorite food is fried fish. I asked him what the most he had ever received and he pointed to me and said $10.
We talked about different services that are available to him. I suggested he sell the Street Sense paper as well…several of the vendors do quite well once they build up a loyal customer base. I asked him if there was anything that the readers of the Year of Giving could do for him and he said that he could use some jeans and other pants. He wears a size 38 x 32. If you are in DC and would like to meet Gregory, he is normally in front of the McDonald’s on M Street in between 19th and 20th Streets. If someone else is there, he usually goes to Connecticut and 18th Street. I can also reach him if you would like to get something to him.
By the way, I went down to try one of John’s burritos at Pedro and Vinny’s burrito stand. It was excellent…I highly recommend it! You definitely need to check out his stand at 15th and K. The food is tasty, the banter upbeat and interesting, and the line is full of regulars who he quickly recognizes. An interesting thing is that John has somewhat of an honor system going on for payment. He has a box that you are supposed to put in the amount that you owe. I liked that.
On my way home I saw Roger from Day 57 but we didn’t get to talk. About 4 blocks away I ran into Nikki from Day 66. She didn’t recognize me and seemed pretty out of it. She said she was talking to “the Man upstairs” and continued walking on to meet with a group of men standing in the center of Dupont Circle. I also saw Kenneth from Day 30…but he was across the street and I was late for a meeting so I was unable to say hello. Needless to say, I am starting to really get to know my neighborhood!