Photo courtesy of Flickr// Eric Parker

I’d be remiss if I did not speak out for those defenseless folk denigrated in Shernell Thomas’s piece featured in the article package “No Room at the Airport.”

Why do homeless people smell? On occasion, inaccessible resources. There are cities with public toilets and showers – D.C. is not one of them. I know that while I tried to minimize those moments, in my experience of unsheltered living, there was an aromatic instance or 10.

Life at the airport is a little different. There’s no excuse, only an inescapable reality. A lot of homeless people are mentally ill. Some are severely and socially traumatized to the extent that hygiene is no longer a consideration, let alone a priority. Have you experienced being treated as valueless so often that you believe it to be fact? These smelly people are in that place.

I know because I was in that place more than 35 years ago as an acute alcoholic. That’s what it was called, but trust me, there was nothing cute about it!

But this isn’t about me. It’s about you. It’s about you understanding that people don’t smell that way by desire. About you not perpetuating the apathetic, self-serving mindset that kicks others when they are down and defenseless. About getting off your apathy and empower helping the suffering community that we chose to make home.

This is about remembering that the malodorous have history (alma maters, careers, significant others), too. If this state of being happened to them and to me, there but for the Grace of your Higher Power, go you.

This is about sharing with the people that don’t care enough to read this periodical that they can choose to be considerate of a less fortunate neighbor rather than be condescending.

Bottom line is, if you have nothing good to say (or do) for your fellow man, say or do nothing.
Ken Martin is a Vendor/Artist for Street Sense. He has a background in community organizing as well as real estate. Ken operates a pop-up hat shop in the District. Learn more at