Basically, nothing shocks the men who meet daily in front of Galloway's Liquors at Talbert Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE in Anacostia. While the people around them fight against the placing of a shelter for the homeless in their community, these men, who have lived most their days in Anacostia, believe the fight is in vain.
"I have lived here 61 years. I was born on Howard Road," said Frederick Williams, known on the streets as "Stack-a-Dollar," or "Stack" for short. "Nothing, I mean nothing, has changed. It hasn't gotten any better in all that time."
"We have enough problems here -- without a shelter for the homeless," said Moe Patterson, a painter and dry-waller who stopped at the corner to eat his lunch with friends.
"I've been here 38 years and I can tell you they forgot Anacostia a long time ago."
Still, petitions will be signed, meetings will be called and strategies will be planned as the people who live generally south of Good Hope Road gear up this week to fight the federal government's recent decision to place a shelter for 600 homeless people in a former Defense Department war college at the foot of the Douglass Bridge.
In conversations throughout Anacostia -- on street corners, in shops and in social service agencies -- people are saying what they have said for years: The federal and city governments continually neglect the people east of the river.
In fact, nine Anacostians sued the city in 1971, asking the U.S. District Court to end the discrimination against them by reducing the amount of land in the community zoned for apartments and asking the court to direct District and federal officials to submit plans to improve the quality and quantity of city services available to them.
The plaintiffs lost their suit, but today, using different forums and different phrases, Anacostians raise the same objections.
"They treat us like we are on an island," Ora Glover, a member of the Fairlawn Citizens Association, said at a news conference about the shelter, held Friday at the District Building.
"They want to turn Anacostia into an Alcatraz," said Glover. "We are proud people. We give respect and we would like to receive respect."
At that news conference, called by City Council member Nadine Winter (D-Ward 6), whose ward includes the shelter site, angry Anacostians said their community already had its share of public institutions, citing the city's home for the aged, St. Elizabeths Hospital, the Blue Plains Sewage Treatment Plant and a large number of community-based residential facilities for drug users, former prison inmates and neglected or delinquent children.
"The deinstitutionalized and confused mental patients from St. Elizabeths are roaming our streets," said Diane Dale, reading an "Open Letter to the D.C. Coalition for the Homeless," the organization that will operate the new shelter.
"We already have more than our share of the region's socioeconomic problems," said Dale, citing statistics on unemployment and public housing. Anacostia has a lot of both.
She added that she shares the fears of other Anacostians that their community also will be chosen as the site for a proposed city jail.
"Why make Anacostia the drop-off point for a federal-city crisis?" Winter asked. "Why overburden a struggling area of the city?"
City Administrator Thomas Downs said yesterday that the comments reflect sentiments that have been in the Anacostia community for years.
"But, again I say, we did not make this decision about moving the shelter to Anacostia," he said. "The federal government did, the Department of Health and Human Services."
Downs said the city was not asked by the federal government for its comments before the decision was made. The question of why the shelter is to be placed there might "more appropriately be directed at the national government," he added.
Anacostia is the home of the District's most intensive concentration of poor residents, many of whom live in decaying garden apartment complexes. The area contains the largest percentage of families earning less than $15,000 a year, according to a city planner.
About 60 percent of the land is in some form of public use. In addition to the sewage plant and St. Elizabeths Hospital, Anacostia is the home of Bolling Air Force Base, the D.C. police academy and the Fire Department Training Center.
While residents depend heavily on public transportation, the Metro Green Line, which will serve Anacostia, is the last leg of the subway to be built. Construction should be completed by 1990.
Like other Anacostia business people, Paul Davis, an owner of Kenny & Paul's Barber Shop at 2912 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. SE, eagerly awaits the subway he hopes will pipe money into the fraying commercial area.
"I was hoping the Metro would uplift the area, but the homeless people will just lie around until I open up in the mornings. That's what some of the St. E's patients do.
"It makes our clientele go down. We're trying to strengthen our businesses and here comes another challenge" -- the shelter, said the 28-year-old barber, whose uncle and father also own barbershops in the neighborhood.
"Dealing with the homeless is like passing around a bomb," he said. "No one knows when it's going to blow up, but it will. Now the city is giving us the bomb."
There also are other new neighbors in Anacostia. Down the street, near Galloway's, the men noted, bitterly, that the shops with fresh paint and new signs are owned by Koreans.
"Everything in this area used to be black-owned and now the Koreans own the stores," said Patterson. "The blacks have sold out because the Koreans made them offers they couldn't refuse."
The community has few businesses and the majority of the new businesses are small carryouts or popular fast food franchises.
"In Anacostia, a black person doesn't have a decent place to take his woman to eat, or for a night out," said Williams. "There isn't a movie theater or a restaurant where you can go and sit down."
"I like to shoot pool and there isn't a pool room," added Patterson. "People ask me why I'm out on the corner all the time. Where else can I go to meet my friends?"
The lack of businesses in Anacostia means that Gladys Bunker, an elderly resident of the Barry Farms public housing development, shops at a Safeway that is far away.
"A cab cost $3.25 to get there," she complained, sitting in her living room surrounded by walls and shelves holding pictures of children and grandchildren.
"My daughter has to come over and take me to Maryland to shop. Everyone says the subway will bring businesses, but we've got to survive before 1990.
"We always get the unwanted and the undesirable over here," she continued, referring to the shelter for the homeless. "We have one homeless guy already who uses our electrical outlets outside to play his radio all day and night.
"I caught him washing his hair using my water," said Bunker, a community activist who heads her neighborhood crime watch group.
She is also concerned about the children. "There's nothing but drugs over here," she said. "There's no place for young people to go, nothing but sex-oriented go-go places.
"A lot of these kids over here don't have money, so they aren't exposed to any of the things in other parts of the city," she said. "Anacostia needs a lot of revitalization -- a movie theater, a skating rink, a bowling alley. It seems they could give us something good for a change."
But like the men at Galloway's, Abu-Bakr, owner of Left Wing Enterprises at 2918 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave., doubts that anything good is coming to Anacostia.
"The only time the mayor comes is for a parade," he said, laughing. "It is wrong for people to say over and over that Anacostia is no good. What they don't know is what blacks here have to contend with.
"Forgotten us?" he scoffed at the comment he has heard at community meetings. "We are neglected, not forgotten."