Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Homeless at West End Library

A small colony of homeless people camp on the front porch at West End Library. I happened upon them this afternoon when attempting to return an overdue book.

Unable to get away from the office during the day, and out of the continental US this weekend, I really needed to return "Sophie's Choice." (Fabu tome!)

The poor library even wrote me a nice note stating that overdue fines were accruing daily, and that I really must give it back.

I Metro'd across town from Capitol Hill in the early evening to West End. Lovely neighborhood. The Asian dude was playing his Asian instrument at the mouth of Foggy Bottom station. I headed to the library.

As I approached the building, I saw a motley krewe of 5 or 6 scruffy individuals (being generous, here!) loitering under the front awning. No one stood. All were in various poses of repose: lounging, slumped, propped-on-elbows, lying on the slates.

All were silently eyeing me.

Someone raised voice and said, "Library's closed for the day! No book drop." At that same moment, I spied the book drop, taped over, layer upon layer so that, clearly, I wouldn't be dropping off "Sophie's Choice" that day.

All I could mutter was a stunned parrot-like, "No book drop. ...oh-kay," turn on my heel, and walk away, defeated.

The dilemma remains. And book fines continue to accrue daily! Trapped like a rat.

However, the much larger dilemma is regarding the problem of homelessness in our city. The group So Others Might Eat reports that 19.1% of DC residents live at or below the poverty line -- 104,000 people. The same fact sheet states that 62% of the homeless population have a high school diploma, and 44% are employed. So let's not demean or stereotype.

Poverty, incredibly expensive housing and high cost of living make for a large homeless population, wanting of dignity and hope.

I think it is our duty as American citizens to act so that this problem is ameliorated. We should each, in some way, reach out to help our fellow man. Dropping a nickel in the guy's cup isn't enough. There should be a greater concerted effort to help our homeless population, our nation's vulnerable. That costs money - charity or taxpayer dollars -- money that many libertarians and fiscal conservatives would rather not spend. So here we sit!

See ya tomorrow at West End, fellas.

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