2. Angie Whitehurst: It Can Happen to You

 Angie reading poetry at Busboys and Poets in DC.

Angie reading poetry at Busboys and Poets in DC.

"It can happen to you. It wasn’t supposed to happen to me.” Angie Whitehurst, a vendor with Street Sense

Have you ever asked yourself “why”? Why do you have the life you have? Why do some end up in the White House and others without a house?

What answers come to mind? Hard work? A good education?

Angie Whitehurst is proof that, even if you seemingly have all of the tools, it can slip away in an instant. It’s possible to graduate college having studied political science, international affairs and economics, to have a career doing contract work for the U.S. Department of Commerce, to work on minority business development and as an international consulting economist overseas, and to become one of the 500,000+ Americans experiencing homelessness.

Whitehurst dreamt of a “perfect”, white picket fence life with kids and a family. She recounts that this dream couldn’t be further from reality. She was in West Africa for work when, on a detour, she contracted cerebral malaria, a rare form of malaria with no cure. Over the years, this, combined with her desire to care for her mentally ill sister and divorcee mother along with a diagnosis of fibromyalgia, eventually left her without a home or the life she wanted most.

After previously buying the Street Sense newspaper on the DC streets and after a conversation with a vendor known as “The Cat in the Hat", Whitehurst became a vendor for Street Sense, DC’s nonprofit media center empowering those experiencing homelessness with economic opportunities. For Whitehurst, Street Sense became an outlet for her love of art, which began at the age of six or seven when she first attended a class at the Corcoran School of Art.

I have an appreciation for the art of the human body,” Whitehurst shares in her Street Sense podcast profile on "Sounds From the Street".

Whitehurst channels her passion for creativity when contributing to Street Sense, which she says helps to educate others by giving homelessness a face and a voice. One endeavor she’s taken part in has been Street Sense’s art bus, showcasing stories of homelessness. After all, she views art as the best mechanism to communicate with people.

 The Street Sense "I Have A Home Here" art bus outside of DC's Dunbar High School in June 2015. Mark Jenkins/The Washington Post.

The Street Sense "I Have A Home Here" art bus outside of DC's Dunbar High School in June 2015. Mark Jenkins/The Washington Post.

While Whitehurst recognizes her tale experiencing homelessness as “a never-ending story”, she doesn’t wish the same on others. In fact, she wants quite the opposite, something simple and straightforward: “Everyone should have a place to stay."

Today, her vision is a calm, healthy, happy, peaceful world, reflective of the “serenity” in her photography and images, like sunsets, water and forests. She wants a home to be a given for people, just like the right to breathe air. Until then, until homelessness is a thing of the past, Whitehurst is giving homelessness a face and a voice that artfully draws people in, to get them to feel and, more strikingly, to understand and act.

 

Want to support the work that Angie and other Street Sense vendors are doing? Visit www.StreetSense.org to donate and learn more today.

Matthew Scott