The Day I Knew I Could Kill a Man

Jan Blount
6 min readJan 5, 2023

Before this, I guess I didn’t see myself as the type

I spent most of the third decade of my life in one kind of pickle or another. In and out of jails and mental institutions, drifting, drinking and drugging. I’ll probably have a lot more to write about those years, eventually. But for the purpose of this story, let’s concentrate on the events of one year. And one day in that fateful year, and one event that happened that day.

On a complete whim one day in 1989 I spent most of the few dollars I had on an Amtrak ticket from Rocky Mount, NC to Washington, DC. I chose DC because I had decided in my hazy reasoning that I wanted to get to the biggest city the furthest north for which I could afford a ticket.

My daily routine while living at “2nd and D” (the real name was the CCNV Shelter) was simple. I would “catch out” in the morning — which means I’d jump into one of the trucks that came by to pick up day laborers early in the morning.

I spent my first few days in DC aimlessly wandering. I soon found that there was a large homeless population there, and just from talking to some of those folks I was able to locate a few places around the city that served as overnight homeless shelters. You had to be in a line to be “checked in” (be counted among the magic capacity number that would be allowed inside) by 6 pm. You had to have yourself out of there by 8am. I also found out by the homeless grapevine that there were several spots where I could get a free meal a couple of times a day on a first come, first serve basis.

Even in my consistently half-addled state, it occurred to me that living “on the streets” in Washington, DC was turning out to be a bit easier than I had imagined it might be. And I soon found out the reason why that was.

It just so happened that in 1989 there was a significant movement going on to help the homeless in the US. The movement was centered in D.C. and it was being spearheaded by an activist named Mitch Snyder.

A brief aside:

I actually met Mitch Snyder in an alley one evening, when I was drunk on cheap wine. He was just walking around talking to people on the street. He wore an Army fatigue jacket. He had an easy smile and liked to laugh, and seemed like a genuinely good dude. He committed suicide the next year in a depression over the direction his efforts for the homeless had gone, and over the breakup of a relationship with a woman…



Jan Blount

Educated, but averse to sophistry. I write about what I know, what angers me and what moves me. I ponder about race, politics, and whether true love exists.