Living in a tent under a DC bridge

WASHINGTON, D.C. (WUSA9) -- How often do so many of us walk past or drive by a homeless person and wonder how they ended up on the streets?

It is almost an everyday part of life in a city like Washington. WUSA9's Reporter Andrea McCarren and photojournalist Joe Martin recently stopped to talk to a woman living amidst a row of tents.

"This is my home, " said Shontay Alexander, unzipping her tent. When she turned 21, her time in the foster care system came to an abrupt end.

"On my birthday, they were like, bye," she said.

She has been homeless ever since, giving up one of her few possessions to buy a tent that's now her home. "I sold my laptop," she told us. "It's hard. It's sad."

Shontay's mother died when she was just 13.

"I don't know my Dad," she said plainly.

As a little girl, Shontay bounced between foster homes. Today, unemployed and alone, her welfare checks go straight into a bank account.

"I have dreams. I do. To get off the street. Do something positive," said Shontay.

Among her meager belongings is a teddy bear.

"Reminds me of my daughter," she said. A two year-old who is now in foster care, just like her mom.

Shontay denies having any issues with drugs or alcohol. She says she has never been diagnosed with a mental illness. And she has no criminal history. And now, she says her primary goal is getting her daughter back.

We wondered if she had any family and were able to track down Shontay's brother in DC. WUSA9 asked if he knew she was homeless and living in a tent. He said she "chose to go that way." So we asked, "Does anyone lucid ever choose to be homeless?"

Her brother responded, "We're as baffled as you are."


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