During the spring semester of 2012 we had the pleasure of working with Socorro, a first year student at The George Washington University, through one of our Service Learning partnerships. Socorro provided tireless assistance to staff, volunteers, and clients during our morning meal program. Socorro was recently selected as the winner of the school’s 2012 Ethics Writing Prize for her essay, titled The Man under the Tree: An Analysis of Children’s Perceptions of Homelessness.
With her permission, we invite you to read her thoughts on homelessness, her experience at Thrive DC, and the unique characteristics of children’s perceptions of homelessness.
A Quick Glance
On April 3rd, 2012, a man experiencing homelessness sleeps under a large tree on a warm spring evening in the George Washington University’s “U-Yard” as students energetically play football and lazily gossip on benches. All too many walk by, casually glance at the African-American man whose old sneakers lie next to him, and keep walking. I walk by and think, “I’ve seen him before,” and keep walking. A few weeks before, I watched the same man eat oatmeal at Thrive D.C., a soup kitchen in our nation’s capital. I realize that this “déjà vu-like” experience has become all too common. On Palm Sunday, I noticed a woman whose shirt was covered in vibrant butterflies at mass in Dupont Circle. The next day, her shirt stood out in the line that filed through Thrive’s door to “grab a cup and number” at the sign-up table. Twice, as I’ve walked to class on G Street, I’ve seen the man from Europe who could pass as a graduate student at the university. I also see him every Monday as he listens to his headphones at a table where immigrants from Latin America speak rapidly in Spanish. I have come to realize that it is almost impossible to not cross paths with a person experiencing homelessness in Washington D.C. every single day, even if we don’t realize it. As I walk back from my Zumba class an hour later, the man is still next to his shoes, in the same place where I left him. Instead of sleeping, he is staring at the grass. People keep walking by.
Read the rest of Socorro’s essay here.