This post recaps the experience that me, Leah and Taimmor had during the Urban Plunge. The Urban Plunge was meant to simulate being homeless and force us to think like a homeless person in D.C. For me the Urban Plunge was the best experience on the trip and had a profound impact on me. The experience started out with each member of our group getting 2 dollars to spend on whatever we want. We were also given a metro pass so that we could use the busses to travel around the city. We had certain objectives to accomplish on the experience such as traveling to a certain location, eating dinner with a homeless person and finding out exactly how to live like a homeless person.
We were sent to Franklin Square to start our quest. We got on the metro pretty easily and made our way to the Square. We then turned our objective to then finding a person in the square to share a meal with. We walked around the square and park trying to find a person who looked in need. We found many people there. The whole park was filled with homeless people who looked in need. We felt very awkward as a group just approaching one of them and asking them if they wanted dinner. As a group we decided that it would be best to go into McDonalds and buy the food first. We could then take the food out to a person and need and share a meal. While we were sitting in McDonalds a tall man about 6’6″ approached me casually and said, “nice weather we are having”. I politely responded and in no time all 4 of us were chatting away with him.
His name was Gary Wolf. He was a 49 year old homeless man from California. He had come to D.C. to play basketball for American University. He had dropped out of school and turned to drug abuse. After a while and a series of poor decisions Gary eventually found himself as a homeless man in D.C. For the last 30 years he has been living on the streets. Gary was kind, intelligent and excited to be able to share his story with us. He was not at all embarrassed by his situation and was not shy about talking about his past.
To me Gary had some very interesting ideas about homelessness itself in D.C. He told us about how it was great that we were coming down to help out in all the soup kitchens and homeless shelters, but there was a down side. Church groups and volunteers make it possible for me to remain homeless. Because there were so many groups willing to feed and provide a home for the homeless it allowed him to stay lazy and take no responsibilities. Listening to his stories and his opinion I would have to say that Gary was not happy, but was more content with his life. He had regrets about his past, but was living his life the way he wanted to.
After we had spend a fair amount of time discussion Gary’s life we then walked around D.C. with Gary for a little. He introduced us to Bobblehead who was a homeless women who lived under the cover of a bus stop. She was very humorous and we joked around with her for a while about life in D.C. Our last stop was Occupy D.C. Gary had a couple of friends who were staying at tents at the occupy movement. It was there we finally said goodbye to Gary. He was going to go check himself into a Hospital for a couple of days so he could rest up. We wished him farewell and good luck and that was that.
Our experience with Gary was life changing. Instead of having all the preconceived notions of homelessness I got to spend the day actually getting to realize what it is like to be homeless. Gary put a face to something I knew little about and completely changed my mind about how I view homelessness.