A homeless person well known to most Downtowners was a man we’ll call Mr. C. He camped out every day on various Downtown streets, most recently at 13th and G Streets, outside the Metro Center Metrorail station. The Homeless Services Team first started working with Mr. C, 53, nearly two years ago after he showed up with his two dogs on the corner of 6th and E Streets. They arrived by bicycle from California to, as he put it, “spread awareness about the harmful effects of smoking cigarettes.”
Mr. C developed throat cancer from smoking cigarettes and had surgery, which left him with a hole in his throat and using a voice box to speak. The Homeless Services Team helped him purchase an artificial voice box after the first one was damaged. Shortly thereafter, he moved to Virginia. He later returned to Downtown and relocated to 13th and G Streets, where he kept his belongings and dogs.
Mr. C returned to Downtown with a new cause—housing. While the Homeless Services Team searched for ways to move him into housing, about six or seven women who became attached to his dogs took an interest in Mr. C. The Homeless Services Team identified Mr. C as chronically homeless (suffering from long-term homelessness, mental illness and various health problems, as well as being assaulted on the streets) and administered the Vulnerability Index that measures mortality risk for the chronically homeless. The Homeless Services Team petitioned the District’s Department of Human Services (DHS) to place Mr. C into housing expeditiously because of his high score on the Vulnerability Index.
It took months, but Mr. C finally was housed last fall. It was determined that his dogs provided emotional stabilization and therefore qualified as service dogs. Mr. C insisted that he wouldn’t move into housing without them. By now, he also had moved from riding his bike to riding a moped. Once housed, however, someone stole his moped. That’s when he moved back Downtown—this time to panhandle on 14th and I Streets and 13th and G Streets.
Eventually, the female dog lovers, working with the psychiatrist at Pathways, were able to get Mr. C, with one of his dogs seated on his lap, on a nonstop Southwest Airlines flight to California. He has rejoined family members in California. It took two years for the Homeless Services Team to build rapport and trust and get the job done, but, in the end, the connection paid off. Says Richard H. Bradley, the DowntownDC BID’s executive director: “We’re not about maintaining homelessness or enabling the homeless. We’re about finding solutions to people living on the streets.”