For two months, my workdays began with the stoic Street Sense vendor Charles Nelson as I rose from the D.C. Metro Center Station escalator.
With half-opened eyes and a folded Street Sense newspaper in his right hand, Charles stood silently at the 13th Street exit while daily hordes of downtown workers walked past him.
He doesn’t say much and is easy to miss, but every morning Charles is there with a handful of papers, a Street Sense badge and a tired face.
Had it not been for my internship at Street Sense this summer, I probably would not have noticed Charles. I would have walked by with the crowd, never knowing what Street Sense was or who was behind the small newspaper. And I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to witness the power this small newspaper has to turn a broken man or woman on the streets into someone with hope.
While other students in my internship program, Georgetown University’s Institute on Political Journalism, may be able to brag about covering Capitol Hill, interviewing politicians and landing front page bylines, I can tell my friends back home about the homeless men and women like Charles I met and will never forget.
At Street Sense, I interviewed panhandlers, hounded the mayor’s office with questions about the 10-year plan to end homelessness and covered presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama’s (D-Ill.) speech on how he planned to battle urban poverty.
But the biggest achievement I have made this summer is learning that homelessness is a real problem in this country. Thanks to the readers, writers and producers of Street Sense, it is a problem that is no longer overlooked by the media.
Every stereotype I ever had about homeless people, homelessness and poverty was thrown out the window after my work at Street Sense. And although the past two months sped by, a part of me feels like I’ll always belong at Street Sense.
I cannot thank Executive Director Laura Thompson Osuri and Editor Koki Smith enough for having faith in me and giving me the opportunity to use my skills to help Street Sense.
I will miss our small office. When I come back to visit, I hope I’ll be greeted by an old friend at the top of the Metro Center exit, selling the latest edition of Street Sense.
Thanks for the great summer, Street Sense.
-- Daniel Johnson