Tag: Homelessness

What Happens in Woodruff Park

I am a freshman at Georgia State University majoring in Political Science. My major requires me to understand how people live affects their decisions. I have taken several classes that analyze behavior in different types of people, such as Comparative Culture, which focuses on police behavior. I spend a lot of time watching people and trying to understand how and why they do the things they do.

Woodruff Park is a small park located on the edge of Georgia State University’s Atlanta campus. Half of the park is filled with flower beds with vibrant flowers and large trees and the other half is paved with stone and has a giant fountain. The fountain rests on the edge of one side of the park like a boarder and is several feet tall. The fountain simulates a man made waterfall. Around the waterfall is almost a pond and it usually has a handful of colorful leaves floating in the water. At the center of the fountain, there is a tiny green door that is apart of the Tiny Doors Atlanta project. The park isn’t surrounded by very tall buildings so for most of the day, the park is in full sunshine. Because of all the sun, for the most part, people in the park tend to stay under the shade of the trees but a couple will sit on the edge of the fountain. Usually the people sitting on the fountain are hanging around the edge of the park, rather than the center.

The Park isn’t filled with people, but everyday a couple hundred people pass by and through the park. Sometimes, people will stop and sit on the fountain. They sit and scroll through their phones for a while and eat before heading out of Woodruff park. 

Park during mid day
Woodruff Park Mid-day

Many homeless people stay in Woodruff Park throughout the day, at least a dozen. They sit and lay near the trees, rarely going near the center of the park or by the fountain. Several of them lay down on the edge of the brick flower beds, wrapped in jackets and blankets trying to take naps under the shade of the trees between the hustle and bustle of the chilly city. They keep their things very close to them, usually at their feet or by their heads, stuffed into backpacks or trash bags or shopping carts. Their carts and bags are overflowing with piles of clothes and nik-nacs. The ones that are awake are watching their things and tend to keep their heads down, not interacting with anybody in the park. When people walk by they look down, trying to avoid eye contact. The people walking by don’t say anything as they pass by. A homeless man is sitting on the edge of the stairs at the entrance to the park brushing his teeth. He is dressed in a gray hoodie, sweats and sneakers with a backpack open next to him. Two women walk by him after taking a picture of the tiny door in the fountain and exhibit this exact behavior, not even sparing him a glance. This behavior continued with more people in the park, from students rushing by to men sitting down to have lunch. 

Most of the people passing through are young students trying to get to class or back to their dorms. Some students are by themselves, but some walk in groups and chat as they walk; sometimes the students stop and smoke before

Homeless man passed by on the street
Homeless man on the street while other people pass him by. Source: Fox News

continuing on their way. The students don’t tend to pay much mind toward other people that they do not know. A few students ride through on the city scooters that are scattered around the city. Most go straight through Woodruff Park, not paying much mind to what is going on around them. One student stops periodically as he rides through the park, he stops and pulls out his phone and take selfies. He doesn’t seem to pay any mind to the homeless people sitting next to him as he clicks away. He crosses through the entire park without paying any mind to the homeless men, or anyone else for that matter. A group of students come by and one of the students pose in front of the fountain while the others help them take pictures of them. But after that, they leave very quickly, not paying any mind to the homeless men a few feet away. A shirtless man walked up to the fountain and dunked his hair in it a couple of times and then picked up one of two shirts sitting on the fountain. He then put on the shirt and proceed to walk along the fountain’s edge out of the park. No one seemed to take notice. If anyone had noticed, they didn’t say or do anything. 

People don’t seem to be concerned with anything going on in the park that doesn’t involve them. They seem to be in too much of a hurry to slow down and talk to each other, or even take notice of each other; perhaps they are just wary of strangers. Everyone who walked through the park seemed to all exhibit the same behavior on their walks. Most people are on their phones and have their earbuds in and did not speak to anyone other than the people they were already with. It seemed like they didn’t want to be disturbed. People seem to be too preoccupied with what they are doing to notice the other people in the park. Everyone walking through the park took notice of the homeless men, very briefly. However, acknowledging their presence is all the interaction amounts to. They don’t seem to pay mind to what any of them are doing or how they appear. They all just casually walked around them and continued on their way.

What I witnessed in the park was that people seemed to be very closed off to the people around them. Any moment that could lead to any human interaction is ignored. The way people do on a day to day basis reflects how they will act when the stakes are upped. How everyone acted in the park was concerning because even the most subtle of interactions, or lack thereof, leaves to people becoming desensitized to each other. And the more people become desensitized to each other, the less sympathetic they become. If people become desensitized to each other, the larger issues that we as a society are less likely to care about the problems of others and that in itself is a major problem. As a society, we need to be more willing to interact with each other in order to improve larger issues.