That’s the word 11-year homeless veteran Reginald Black used in his poem ‘Cold Society’ to describe the ostracization he experiences day to day living on the streets of DC. Ever since Reginald was a recipient of services at United Way of the National Capital Area's 4th annual Project Homeless Connect in September of 2018, he’s tried to get his life back on track. “People say ‘it’s okay’,” Reginald explains to me, “it’s okay to be homeless… It should never be okay for someone to live like this.”
For Reginald, the hardest barrier to overcome in his experience is the transition. For many individuals transitioning out of homelessness, the process may be an uphill battle that includes securing a job, improving and maintaining good credit and social assimilation requiring knowledge of available information and access to resources. It takes a great deal of will power for someone who just spent a prolonged period feeling like they don’t exist to the people they pass on the streets.
For many of us, it may be too painful to see our homeless neighbors or easier to turn and look away from those on the streets. It’s safer to imagine that homelessness is a by-product of life for others who made a bad choice or are mentally ill. The harsh reality is that 54 people experiencing homelessness died on the streets of DC in 2018 alone.
United Way NCA convenes our partners and resources to fight for our neighbors experiencing homelessness in the National Capital Region. We recently teamed up with Street Sense Media on a project to put a human face to the issue of homelessness in our community. Additionally, United Way NCA’s Project Homeless Connect, the one-stop-shop day of service and resources that provides essential services such as medical, podiatry, vision, dental and obtaining government-issued IDs to those experiencing homelessness. Participants are paired with Volunteer Buddies to help them navigate the day.