They were always seen by all who passed by, broke and idle in a number of Washington, DC parks and grassy nooks. After 9/11, however, they began to disappear and in large numbers. "They" were the familiar faces of Washington's homeless.
From Lafayette Park, across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House, to Virginia Avenue across from the State Department, and Franklin Square, amid the city's glass and steel towers housing DC's power elite to tony Georgetown, many homeless people, both those truly down on their luck and those who were mentally ill, began to disappear.
As one Washington homeless advocate told this editor, "These people simply vanished."
The disappearance of homeless people from the streets of Washington began under the administration of Mayor Anthony Williams and continues in force under that of Adrian Fenty. Both African-American mayors, Democrats but beholden to deep-pocketed land developers in a city that rarely elects Republicans to office, began to quietly make it tougher for the homeless to survive in the nation's capital. Last year, Fenty announced that the Franklin School Shelter at 13th an K Streets would be phased out, leaving the homeless residents of that shelter little choice but to move to the streets.
Last August, a number of homeless activists picketed Fenty's home over the plans to close the Franklin shelter. WMR was told by one spokesperson for the homeless that one of the protesters, John McDermott, has also now "vanished." The spokesperson added that there are many cases of people known to live on the streets of Washington simply "disappearing" without a trace.
Some major cities, including New York and Atlanta, have been discovered to be "dumping" their homeless residents on other smaller towns and cities. Others threaten their homeless with prison unless they leave town with usually a one-way bus ticket provided.
However, there is no evidence that Washington, DC has been dumping homeless on other cities or paying their transportation out of town. The homeless spokesperson interviewed by WMR said that DC's homeless are simply "vanishing" without a trace. DC officials in charge of the homeless are very tight-lipped when asked about the fate of unaccounted for homeless in the city.
Although the best case scenario is that these unfortunate people have, in fact, been relocated to other areas, the spokesman ended the interview on a chilling note. He said with federal camps and a high demand for any usable body parts by the lucrative transplant industry, he feared the worst may have befallen some of DC's "invisible residents."