Thank You

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Hello, D.C.! My name is Stephanie Rodriguez and I’m from Brooklyn, N.Y. I arrived in D.C. at 7 a.m., on Aug. 16. The week I decided to leave New York, I googled shelters and the Metro system so I had some direction when I arrived.

The first shelter I went to was the Community for Creative Non-Violence. I was denied a bed, but was given the shelter hotline number. I made arrangements to be picked up at 9th and G streets at 6 p.m. The shelter van brought me to the Harriet Tubman shelter. There were no beds there either, but I want to say “thank you” to the Harriet Tubman shelter for giving me a hot meal and a place to rest before I started my journey. Eventually, I was introduced to the bridge on D and 2nd Streets.

I want to say “thank you” to all my friends on D and 2nd streets for keeping me safe and pointing me in the right direction. Society prejudges those who hang out at the bridge as not the nicest and safest to be around. Society also assumes the bridge to be unsafe. When I arrived, all the women and men treated me with respect. The nights I spent on the bridge, I was fed and felt safe. I also want to say “thank you” to all the African-American men in Franklin Square Park and McPherson Square Park who treated me with respect.

The African-American men I have encountered in D.C. have truly been concerned with my well-being. They have been giving me advice on how to start my life over. I’m sorry to say my father never sat down and explained to me how to be a woman who society will respect and accept. I do want to say I still love him, though we never had that talk about how I can become that woman a man would love and respect.

I want to say “thank you” to all those who provide the clothing rooms, as well as the service providers I’ve been to (SOME, Martha’s Table, Miriam’s Kitchen and the Goodwill, for example). I also want to say “thank you” to all the churches for having meals available to homeless persons. One of the churches that have meals provided on weekends is Franklin Square. I want to say “thank you” to the people who provide cold water, chips and sandwiches on D and 2nd street.

I want to especially say “thank you” to the average American family that donates clothes, food, furniture and organic foods to these organizations. It’s always a treat when I encounter organic food. We all know how expensive organic food is. For somebody like me, it’s a treat to indulge in an organic meal. Thank you for donating your personal belongings for people who cannot provide those things for themselves.
I want to individualize a few “thank yous.” “Thank you” James for introducing me to Street Sense. “Thank you” Mark, who is also sells Street Sense, for taking time to share your location. He helped me start selling the paper. He did not have to do that because he was not my mentor. He wanted to do that for me.

My mentor at Street Sense is Jeffery McNeil. We all know Jeffery McNeil in D.C. He is the utmost gentleman. He has taught me a great deal and shared many locations. Anybody who knows Street Sense knows that it’s the nicest thing you can do for a new vendor in Street Sense. Jeffery also brought me to my first AA meeting located at DuPont Circle. Anybody who knows about the program knows Jeffery McNeil saved my life. “Thank you,” Jeffery McNeil, for being a gentleman and a friend.

One day I was selling Street Sense across from an Au Bon Pain and a man named Troy, who is probably in his twenties, told me if I need a job I can apply to Au Bon Pain and use him as a reference. He did not know me, so that was very nice of him. “Thank you,” Troy. I want to say “thank you” to all the people who have bought Street Sense from me, who helped me a lot and lifted my self-esteem. You gave me hope. I have been able to put a deposit on a living room I rent.

I hope I will be able to get my own place, so I can go to school and establish a career. I will probably major in biology, zoology or veterinary science. I love animals and science. I hope selling Street Sense will put me in the direction to make my dreams come true.

Last but not least, I would like to say “thank you” to Brian Carome, the executive director of Street Sense. I am proud to say that he runs a beautiful newspaper and is a voice for the homeless. I also want to say “thank you” to all of the staff who help Brian Carome make this paper for us.

I want to say to the public; don’t lose hope on the homeless, and definitely don’t stop giving. You will never know who is really going to appreciate the donations and use them to build themselves up. Enjoy your edition of Street Sense.

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We believe ending homelessness begins with listening to the stories of those who have experienced it.