Photo by jGregor on Flickr.

Two weeks ago, for the first time, I saw a homeless person sleeping in the alley behind my house. Was this because the weather’s getting colder? Is it the declining economy? Does it happen a lot and I just don’t usually happen to be coming in via the alley while someone is there? Or is the closing of Franklin Shelter forcing more homeless people onto the streets and alleys?

Franklin drew strong emotions on both sides of the issue, between those who believe the homeless need a downtown shelter and those who argue conditions were bad and the money could be better spent helping the homeless get real housing. I don’t know the right answer, but as with other traditional urban issues, improving the plight of the homeless, and reducing the nuisances and crime that can result, isn’t something we can ignore. It’s a moral issue (a fellow person is suffering) and a practical one: having homeless people in one’s alley is another factor making suburbs look more appealing.

I wasn’t sure what to do about the man in my alley. Call the police? That seemed such a hostile attack on someone trying to find a flat place to sleep. But neither am I comfortable with the alley becoming a regular spot for homeless people. One thing I can do is help local organizations who are aiding the homeless in pulling themselves out of their situation.

Today at 1pm is a mini-walk for Charlie’s Place, an organization on Connecticut Avenue that helps the homeless find housing and jobs, provides access to a nurse, a hot breakfast and education presentations, and more. The walk goes from 20th and Mass. to Charlie’s near Connecticut and T, where they will serve refreshments and give a short presentation about the organization’s work. Suggested donation is $25. Or, if you’re out of town like me, you can donate online.

David Alpert is Founder and President of Greater Greater Washington and Executive Director of DC Sustainable Transportation (DCST). He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. Unless otherwise noted, opinions in his GGWash posts are his and not the official views of GGWash or DCST.