Anthony Crawford: 19th and M Street's Buoy in The Sea | People
It’s late morning on a Wednesday, and the intersection of 19th and M Street in Northwest is a mob of elegantly dressed men and women navigating their way through the bustling crowd.
The people weave through each other with swiftness and agility, reminiscent of an Olympic slalom race. It is a sea of duffle coats and pinstripe suits, high heels and pashmina shawls.
And as this crowd ebbs and flows with the rescheduling of meetings, lunch dates, and conference calls, Anthony Crawford, sporting a puffy green jacket, a USA winter cap, and a neon green vest, remains still at the corner of 19th and M, a lone buoy in the shifting sea.
A Pittsburgh Steeler lanyard dangles from his right pant pocket. He’s ready for his team to play in the Super Bowl.
“The Steelers!” Crawford exclaims excitedly when asked about it. “They’re my dogs! They’re gonna take home the Super Bowl! (Aaron Rodgers) will give them a good shot, but they’ve got it.”
He explains that he’ll probably be watching the big game at Dupont Circle’s Buffalo Billiards bar, and that he can’t wait for Sunday.
* * *
“Awww shush,” Crawford says to a turning vehicle. The car has been honking at him for standing in the middle of 19th street in an attempt to usher across a line of baby strollers that entered the crosswalk late.
Even when he’s perturbed, the man’s tone remains relatively unchanged, only a slight deviation from his standard warm and inviting voice.
* * *
Anthony Crawford does not wear a coat to work, nor a suit. He doesn’t have an office, a briefcase, or a laptop. Anthony Crawford doesn’t even have a home.
“I’m basically out here on my own,” He says. “Sometimes it’s tough, but you’ve got to make it work for yourself.”
Since 2005, Crawford has sold Street Sense, the homeless newspaper, at the corner of 19th and M.
“I love (this community),” He says. “People come by in the morning, sometimes they’ll buy me a cup of coffee. What more can I ask for? Just a warm smile, that’s it.”
He chats with passers by. He knows many of them by name, as he’s developed relationships with locals over the past several years.
The 53-year-old Crawford grew up in Southwest D.C., and attended Jefferson Junior High School. His wife died of a drug overdose in 1983, and he became homeless several years later. Next was a stint in jail, followed by his mother dying of heart failure over ten years ago. Now it’s 2011 and Crawford is still living on the streets.
“Still on the street right now… it’s okay,” Crawford says. “I sleep in a quiet place, it’s okay. I can live on this. I get cardboard boxes, a sleeping bag, and try to find a nice little cubby hole to lay up in.”
“Sometimes it’s tough to find food,” He continues. “Sometimes it’s kind of hard to find a place to sleep because there’s snow on the ground, or police or security guards will run you off, or people don’t want you hanging around their buildings.”
Through his homeless hardships, Crawford has found a glimmer of hope with Street Sense. Crawford, like many other homeless members of the Washington, D.C. community, purchases the newspapers for thirty-five cents a piece and sells them for one dollar to the public. He says most days he can make almost fifty dollars in total sales.
The publication not only acts as a helping hand to the homeless themselves, but also attempts to give some insight into the issue of homelessness as a whole.
“Street Sense is a homeless paper, to educate people about the homeless,” Crawford said. “Most people are scared of homeless people, you know they think they’re dirty, they’re drunks, they’re drug addicts, which is not true. Some of them are Vietnam Veterans; some of them had a real tough life like I did. You never know what a person’s story is until you talk to them.”
Crawford’s dedication to educating others about homelessness is evident. In addition to selling Street Sense, he participates in a program with the National Coalition for the Homeless that he calls Urban Plunge.
“They bring in kids from Chicago, New York, and Philadelphia, who want to come and learn what it’s like to be homeless,” Crawford says. “They spend 48 hours on the street. It’s a very good experience for them. They come here with a phobia, or a stigma I should say, that homeless people are drunks or drug addicts, and I give them a challenge to talk to someone who’s homeless to tell their side of the story. When they come back to me, they have a whole new outlook on life about homeless people.”
Crawford’s desire to educate others stems from certain interactions he’s had in the past.
“Some people might think I’m just a homeless person out here just pan-handling off the top, which I’m not,” He says. “I’m just out here selling Street Sense, you know just to survive a little bit. Just a smile (from someone passing) is what counts. Just say ‘hello’, a ‘hi, how you doing?’ that’s the main thing. Some people do walk by (me) like (I’m) not even there, and that disturbs me.”
* * *
It’s now midday at 19th and M Streets, and the sea of suits and shawls is fully flowing. Many members of the Downtown D.C. business world surrounding Dupont Circle have thoughts of a bad report or an angry boss. Anthony Crawford, though, has other, far more elementary concerns.
“(Tomorrow) I’ll get up and try to find a place to brush my teeth, try to find a cup of coffee, try to get a shower, and then I’ll come out here and (sell Street Sense) from 7:30 a.m.-2 p.m.. After that, I’ll try to hang out around some Starbucks coffee shop or Five Guys, somewhere it’s warm at. Then just go back to my spot and lay down until the next day.”
The man does have dreams for the future, desires he hopes will become reality sooner rather than later.
“In five years, I hope to have my own apartment and be running my own home improvement business. I like working with my hands,” Crawford says. “I’ve been homeless since 1989. That’s too long.”
But right now, on this Wednesday, Crawford remains calm in the center of the Dupont Circle mob, donning his green jacket, winter cap, neon green Street Sense vest, and Pittsburgh Steeler black and yellow lanyard, hoping his team can take the trophy home on Sunday.
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