There is so much poverty here.
North Avenue is a wasteland of bricked-up rowhouses; trash is everywhere in these neighborhoods.
Forgotten people are scattered like the trash on the sidewalks as well. Sitting at a stoplight yesterday I watched a woman fall slowly off a bench by a bus stop; the people around her didn't even flinch when her legs hit the ground. The line heads out the door of the liquor store on every corner in these neighborhoods, too, and the people sitting on stoops look hopeless and broken.
There are far fewer people just hanging out, though; even though poverty is on full display, there are far fewer folks just standing around. Where are they? Hidden behind the bricks?
According to this article from 2011, Baltimore has 16,000 vacant homes; I would venture to guess that there are more than that now. In addition to the vacant homes, there are many vacant lots, some now up for adoption.
We are sheltered in the suburbs of Georgia, for sure. There are homeless people; there is poverty. There is trash. Not on this level. Not on display so prominently.
Here in Baltimore, though, it is block by block. The street of Kerry and Mark's house is tree-lined and beautiful; the street sweepers here are people with brooms who move block by block, sweeping trash and leaves into dustpans and putting them into trash cans that they take with them when they are done.
Five blocks away are the broken people.
I couldn't live here and do nothing about them, and yet humanity is a bottomless pit of despair. Poverty is complex, and we will always have destitute, hopeless people. But I am struggling with the juxtaposition of the bright, hopeful Johns Hopkins students and the man sleeping on the sidewalk in front of Starbucks. Most walk by and don't even look down.
I am not new to cities; I have lived in Baltimore, New York and Seattle and have been a visitor in others (Paris, Miami, DC, Philly). In Baltimore I worked for a women's transitional shelter; one night I was trapped in a client's home by gunfire. In New York I knew the homeless people on my route home by name and often left them goodie bags from work so they would wake up to food. Seattle is its own little corner of the world; the police generally swept up the homeless people and relocated them south of the city, away from tourists; when I could, I would also give food, and always money to any artist or musician on the street.
Things are different now. It's not Dane; maybe it's age. I have a hard time walking by and not looking and not imaging what I could do with my experience and resources. I have a hard time thinking about what the people on the street are struggling with. It might be too much for me right now, or it might be just the thing. #Perspective. Who knows?