When federal contractors went on a one-day strike this week
demanding $15 an hour, one of the demonstrators was a homeless man who sleeps on the street at night – and works in the Capitol's Senate cafeteria by day.
Charles Gladden, 63, who sets up a makeshift bed on a sidewalk next to the District of Columbia's McPherson Square Metro Station, has been washing dishes and doing janitorial work in the Capitol for the last eight years, reports CNN,
which on Friday posted an interview with him on its website.
"I just sweep, clean the bathroom, that type of stuff," he said, telling CNN he uses the sink in the bathroom to give himself a "birdbath."
"I'm working around food," he tells CNN. "I can't go in there smelling, and I can't go in there dirty."
He is acutely aware of how unusual his day and night lives are.
"I work for the most powerful people in the country, and there I am sleeping at a subway stop," Gladden says. "I'm an embarrassment. I don't want to be an embarrassment to this country, the country I was born and raised in."
Gladden makes about $11 an hour, and takes home about $360 a week, giving much of it to his struggling children and grandchildren, CNN reports.
"I take care of them," he tells CNN. "I don't want to be a burden on my kids."
His precarious financial status is exacerbated by health woes, including diabetes that caused the amputation of three toes after it went untreated for a long time, CNN reports.
When he misses work, he goes unpaid, he tells CNN.
His homeless life went unnoticed until the one-day strike Thursday.
"If it happened to me, it could happen to someone else. They scramble around for issues to talk about," he said, motioning to the Senate chamber.
"All they have to do is stop and ask the common person on the street ... or in the building, the people bringing them their food, people sweeping and cleaning their toilet."
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