Photo taken outside on New York Avenue showing a cone with caution tape and a sign that says no camping.
Cement slabs and cones stand where benches once were in one of the smallest National Park Service areas. / Photo courtesy of Eric Falquero

Life without benches

By Henry Johnson

Removing the benches from the sidewalk and park by New York Presbyterian Church at 1331 New York Avenue NW was a real problem for me because It hurts me to walk or stand a lot.  

Fortunately, my Street Sense Media customers have been very generous and I’ve used their donations to buy a portable chair to take around with me. It enables me to sit where I want and when I need to, which means I’m less tired than before all this happened. Your generosity has meant a lot to me! So thank you to all my customers who showed how much they care. 

But my homeless friends still have fewer places to sit and rest. The Downtown D.C. BID crew and their workers in red could help by bringing out red chairs and tables like they use in Franklin Park. And other people who work in the area and who used to use the benches can help by speaking up and asking to keep benches available for all people. 


BENCHED

By James Davis

How do the homeless feel to be benched?
Is it because of the stench?
Could it be that they smoke K-2 all day?
Either way it doesn’t make any sense!
Of all the subtle ways to discriminate
This move by New York Pres. seems like hate.
The courtyard should be enjoyed by all
Especially now as we sit, can sit and
Watch the leaves fall.
For all the good that they do for the homeless
This seems rather dumb.
Is this practicing neighborliness?
It sure sticks out like a sore thumb. 

Illustration that personifies a bench as a person with the word no written on it.

Illustration by Queenie Featherstone, Artist/Vendor


Solutions Please

By Reginald Black

When people complain, things happen. 

I think the benches next to the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church on 1313 New York Avenue NW and the benches on H Street around the church were removed because some people who work or frequent the area complained about the people using the benches the most: people experiencing homelessness. 

Those complainers don’t understand poverty, its pernicious effect on the poor, and what things become predatory to those who happen to be less fortunate. It is not fair to deprive people of their right to congregate or to rest. 

Nobody removes benches when people become drunk, make loud noises, and engage in disorderly conduct at sporting events such as Washington Nationals games and D.C. United matches. Some of those people even engage in physical confrontations, often without consequences. 

Why complain without producing a viable solution to your perceived problem? It is disgraceful that the poor are disrespected so frequently. If we would help more people escape their crushing poverty, maybe so many would not self-medicate so often.  

We need to act with compassion rather than with anger. 


Benches gone

By Robert Warren

When I first saw that the benches had been removed in the little park next to New York Ave. Presbyterian Church, I felt bad for the older people in the homeless community who would sit on them throughout their day of travel around the downtown area of Washington, D.C. The new downtown day service center is right there in the church, so a lot of people with a lot of needs come there.  

I had heard about complaints from the business community complaints regarding people lying about during the day and evening and how it looks. I thought about people who may or may not have been part of the homeless community who would use drugs and be lying all out on the benches in a dream state of mind, and how bad it might look to the general public. 

And I remembered President Trump’s remarks giving the impression that he had solved the homeless problem in D.C., saying that when he became president he cleaned up the area and removed the homeless from around our nation’s capital. Of course, those of us who advocate on behalf of the homeless community knew this was not true — just another one of his lies (I was not shocked). 

I have always known that the action of a few of us can make things go from bad to worse.  I feel like those of us in the community need to do a better job of policing ourselves, standing up to those people who may or may not be a part of the homeless community that come around to prey on people already traumatized and going through so much.  

I understand why people might feel the way they do about seeing the homeless people on the street or lying around on benches. But I still can’t see punishing the whole of the downtown homeless community for the actions of a few. 

Photo of filled in holes on the sidewalk where benches once were.

Concrete-filled holes are all that is left of where each bench once was. Seven were removed from the north side of H Street NW, several more from the south side, and several from inside the small national park area.. Photo by Eric Falquero


Read our news report about removal of the benches here.