Thursday, September 23, 2010

There But For the Grace...

Most every morning when I walk to the Silver Spring Metro station I see a red motorized wheelchair parked in a corner of the glass "V" bus shelter at Bonifant Street and Dixon Avenue.  The wheel chair is occupied by a slumped individual with a coat draped completely over his or her person.

One morning I actually observed a passing pedestrian lift up the corner of the jacket to check if the person was OK (i.e. alive).  At that moment I still couldn't make out the person's gender.

It was thus with great surprise and concern that I saw the red motorized wheelchair with its fully revealed occupant today around noon sitting next to the Safeway on Fenton Street.  An elderly homeless man was sleeping in the wheelchair under the shade of a tree.

Does anyone know anything about this individual?  It deeply distresses me that here in Montgomery County, one of the wealthiest counties in the nation, this disabled senior citizen is living out on the streets of our "revitalized" community.

I suspect that if this man decided to spend the night or take a nap on Ellsworth Drive, he wouldn't be there long.  Surely our local social services know of this individual.  Why is he not being helped?

Any insights would be welcomed.


This gentleman was sleeping  at the "V" bus shelter this morning at 7:45 am.


Anonymous said...

Hi Jerry,

Thanks for bringing this man to our attention. If you see him again, I encourage you to ask him about himself, even if it means waking him. "excuse me, sir, . . . ." If I see him that's what I will do. Thank you, Jerry, Shirley True

Mimi said...

"Why is he not being helped?" -- well, that's a complicated issue. There are a lot of programs available, and sometimes people don't want to use them. Sometimes it's because mental illness makes them suspicious of any help offered; sometimes language or cultural barriers get in the way; sometimes the programs impose restrictions that people choose to avoid; sometimes being in the programs is unpleasant, and people choose to avoid that. (For example, many homeless shelters are notoriously noisy, prone to theft, etc., and it's not uncommon for people to prefer sleeping on the street to sleeping in a noisy place where there are a ton of rules.) The larger question, then, might be how to design AND FUND programs that can reach more people. Right now social service agencies are extremely underfunded and demand is very high. We are a wealthy county, yes, but the economy has withered our budget. Who will fund new, innovative programs that might help hard-to-serve populations? It's a good question. But I assure you, this is not a simple issue of, "Well, someone should just get out there and HELP him, and then he'd be all set."

I'm also wondering how this man would feel to know his photo has been posted online and he is being discussed. without his knowledge.

Anonymous said...

Looking at the picture I would say he has someone to take care of or some place to go at night.

He is using an electric motor driven wheelchair and that needs to be charged so the question is how does he charge it. Of course there are places that he can plug it for free. But I still think he is not that bad off as some others I see on the street.

It's nice of you to be concerned.

Anonymous said...

You can still make out this man's face when you click on the photo. Don't you have any respect for other people? What is a historical preservation person doing blogging about homeless (?) people in Silver Spring? Since your identity is so closely tied to the group you front (SSHS), how do your other members feel about the use of their identity to intrude on this man's life and privacy> Shame on you.

Silver Spring: Then and Again said...

Anonymous September 25, 2010 5:39 AM

"Silver Spring: Then and Again: Reflections on downtown Silver Spring's past and present..."

"Present." As in now, today, the moment I walked past this man sleeping out in public who probably isn't as concerned about his privacy as he is about where his next meal is coming from.

No, not shame on me but shame but our community for allowing an elderly person to live like this. I've already contacted Shepherd's Table at the suggestion of off-line communications to see it they can help this individual.

DTSSer said...

I don't know his name however I have spoken with him many times. he eats at Sheppards table I believe. In fact last week a strange incident happened. I was walking to the Metro and I saw the man in his wheel chair stopped right in the middle of Bonifant. It was clear his chair was malfunctioning and he needed help. I went over and had to get down on the ground to flip a switch that would allow me to manually push the chair. While doing this a construction worker stood at the corner of Bonifant and Georgia yelling at us to get out of the street. My husband called to her telling her that I was helping the man. Eventually we were able to get him across the street but I was so upset that the construction worker was so blind to the problem as were the many people passing by.