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D.C's 'homeless homeless' advocate

Eric Sheptock also writes two blogs.
Eric Sheptock also writes two blogs. (Michael S. Williamson)

It's not enough to pay rent, he says, "not in this city." But it's enough to pay his cellphone bill and buy the occasional snack or piece of clothing.

Today, he'll take the bus.

Pressuring city officials

Breakfast is served at 9:30 a.m. at Thrive DC.

Sheptock, who is wearing a black hooded sweat shirt and cargo pants that hang on his wiry frame, mows through two plates of beenie-weenies, roasted potatoes, coleslaw and bread. He does his laundry and then hustles to Thrive's computer lab, which opens at 11 a.m.

Sheptock is usually there on the dot, says Nathan Mishler, Thrive DC's volunteer resources manager.

"Anyone who deals with homelessness knows of Eric," Mishler says.

Ask city officials about Sheptock, and they'll describe the countless e-mails they've gotten from him complaining about the D.C. government's performance on homelessness.

In a city where 6,500 people have no place to live, affordable housing is scarce and shelters are full, Sheptock "aims to pressure them into actually being effective," his Facebook page says.

His e-mail signature includes his cellphone number, links to his blogs and a slogan: "Outgoing Mayor Fenty has a headache and his headache has a name - Eric Jonathan Sheptock." Then he offers Fenty's office number.

Not everyone appreciates being on the receiving end of Sheptock's constant gripes. One administrator at the Community for Creative Non-Violence says he has marked Sheptock's e-mail as spam because "he's always condemning us for one thing or another."

But others see Sheptock as an important portal to an often voiceless community.

"What he's been great at is surfacing information," says Scott McNeilly of the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless. "We have mechanisms in place to respond when there are problems, but often times we don't know that those problems exist."

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