If you have been to Cleveland Park, or even simply passed through recently, you have likely seen Christian Warrior, clad in a black hoodie and pink bandana, standing for hours on Connecticut Avenue. A Native Washingtonian, Christian’s given name is Alwin Johnson III. For the first several years of his life, he lived with his mother in Southeast D.C. During Elementary School, they moved to the Northeast Quadrant where he remained for many years while mother worked at the Library of Congress. Alwin left high school to obtain his GED through a Job Corps program. When his mother died, he was unable to maintain his financial benefits. A police officer with the DC Metropolitan Police told me Alwin once saved an officer’s life but Alwin didn’t want to divulge the details.
For nearly fifteen years, Alwin slept behind a church on a piece of cardboard underneath eight blankets. Each night he thought to himself that if he got enough sleep, perhaps the next day would be better for him. Alwin chose the name “Christian Warrior” for himself as a reminder to embody the values of Christ by loving all people on this planet. Eventually he was able to obtain a housing voucher from Catholic Charities. This is known as the Housing First Approach which provides shelter and safety for people experiencing homelessness, thus enabling them to gain control over their lives by meeting their most basic needs. According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, 98% of people are able to remain in housing after they receive a voucher without strings attached. In nearly all of these cases, people are able to get help for their mental health and/or substance abuse issues and even find employment.
Christain has lived in an apartment in Cleveland Park for five years thanks to a Housing First voucher. He made the decision to spend his days on Connecticut Avenue rather than stay inside brooding over any negativity. He explained that “doors open when you go outside.” He listens to music (rap, rock and soft rock music), dances and offers public wisdom near the Metro. He is aware that not everyone appreciates the wisdom part but hopes they understand he is hoping to connect with his community. Remarkably, he is not bitter about his extraordinarily hard years, rather his current perspective is that this experience helped him understand the pain others were going through. Christian took it upon himself to serve the community in a tangible way when 7-Eleven Owner Naod Ejigu purchased a dustpan and broom for him. Daily he sweeps up cigarette butts and litter on Connecticut Avenue in the Commercial Strip between Porter and Macomb. The Cleveland Park Main Street Litter Cleanup crew has noticed a huge decrease in litter during their monthly plogging (litter pick up) excursions.
Because of the Catholic Charities Housing First Program, Cleveland Park gained a new neighbor, one who is supporting our small businesses and commercial corridor in a tangible way. These are the types of connections that we at District Bridges/Cleveland Park Main Street love to see and facilitate. Like Christian, we believe that feeling connected to our community is crucial to building thriving neighborhoods. He wants to tell everyone “Let us love one another, come together and feel the full reward of being American citizens and residents of Cleveland Park.” At the heart of everything, he wants us to care about our community and believe we deserve to live in a clean environment. Christian is committed to letting people know that they belong and hopes his story of remarkable resilience can inspire others to not give up no matter who they are.