As I make my way around Lafayette Square Park, it is inevitable for me to notice the myriads of tourists that flood the square.

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Lafayette Square, photo taken by me

     Granted, the imposing White House, which attracts over 100,000 people each month, is only a few meters away (Eisen).     

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Tourists visiting the White House

These same tourists find solace in the natural beauty that encompasses Lafayette Square Park. However, the buildings that surround the area are not as tourist friendly. In other words, the majority of them do not allow regular people to go in. For example, even though several thousands of tourists gawk at the facade of the White House on a daily basis, the historic building’s interior remains a mystery to most. It is the same way for most of the buildings that surround the iconic home of America’s President. The Eisenhower Executive Office Building, the US Department of Treasury,  and the Blair House are not open to the general public.

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Eisenhower Executive Building

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U.S. Department of Treasury, rear view

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Blair House

If one wishes to tour these historic buildings one must make reservations in advance through one’s Congressional offices. The reason for this is because these buildings house some of the most powerful and influential people in the nation, and some of the most important decisions are made behind these walls. However, even though this entire area is surrounded by eminent citizens and curious tourists,  I am left awestruck as I notice all of the homeless people that flood the square once the sun begins to set.

It is ironic, that just a few feet away from the President’s home, and among tourists, locals, and government workers, one runs into so many homeless people.

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Homeless person on Lafayette Square

While it may seem shocking to me, a foreigner, the topic of homelessness at Lafayette Square Park is nothing new. In fact, this social issue has been around since the very creation of the park. Famously, numerous politicians have addressed the issue of homelessness in Lafayette Square. Secretary of State, John Kerry, during the Democratic National Convention, opened his speech by mentioning the topic of homelessness in Lafayette Square in order to address the issue of poverty in the nation: “What does it mean when people are huddled in blankets in the cold, sleeping in Lafayette Park on the doorstep of the White House itself…?” (Godfrey). In my opinion, the fact that so many homeless people reside a few meters away from the most patriotic house of all, clearly portrays America’s socioeconomic inequality.

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The White House East Room

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DC Homeless at Lafayette Square, meters away from the White House

       However, Sarah Godfrey, in her article, “Abandon Quip,” argues that Lafayette Square is no longer a “home for the homeless,” and that the idea of homelessness just a few steps from the White House has become nothing more than a political trope. In her article, she also mentions how the number of homeless people in Lafayette Square has been reduced. While some may agree, according to Scott McNeilly, staff attorney for the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless, there is less visible homelessness in the park because of security sweeps or construction, not because there has been a reduction in numbers. In other words, instead of trying to solve the issue of homelessness in the park, the government has issued security sweeps to get rid of the homeless in order to grant tourists and visitors of the park a “pleasant view.”

 

Works Cited

Cavna, Michael. “‘Lafayette, Our Most American Square’: A Year in the Park Sparks an Illustrated Meditation on History, Hope–and the Homeless [VIDEO].” Washington Post, The Washington Post, 31 Dec. 2014, www.washingtonpost.com/news/comic-riffs/wp/2014/12/31/lafayette-our-most-american-square-a-year-in-the-park-sparks-an-illustrated-meditation-on-history-hope-and-the-homeless-video/

Eisen , Norm. “Transparency like You’Ve Never Seen Before.” The White House, The United States Government, 30 Oct. 2009, www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2009/10/30/transparency-you%E2%80%99ve-never-seen-0.

Godfrey, Sarah. “Abandon Quip .” Www.prop1.Org, 6 Aug. 2004, http://www.prop1.org/history/2004/040806.dccitypaper.lafayettepark.abandon%20quip.htm.