I’ve been in Seattle less than 24 hours and seen more homeless people than I’ve ever seen in a large city. In a city where the average net income is $91,000 per year, I find this sad and amazing at the same time.
A lot of people here that are homeless are obviously mentally impaired by illness, abuse or drugs but I went out and talked to a few I felt safe with.
I met Zoe, a 17 year old girl, kicked out by her mother when she remarried, and Jacob, her 22 year old boyfriend. Jacob lost his job but continued to pay child support for his 2 year old daughter and lost his apartment. They live in a tent pressed up against a small cave near a lake here in Washington state. There are at least 3 such tent cities in Seattle. Zoe wants to go to art school and Jacob’s résumé includes 2 years of experience with a single company doing web design. So why can’t he get a job?
Explain to me how you get a job with no phone number, mailing address, or mode of transportation? Basically, Seattle is a walking city with massive public transport, but how can an employer reach you? I suppose you could set up an email account and check your email at Internet cafes if they’ll let you inside. Perhaps where there’s a will, there is a way. I think I would have run straight to San Diego where the weathers nice! So why Seattle?
I also met Christina, a 23 year old that wants to go to culinary school. She ran away at 17 from an abusive home and has tried numerous times to return, but isn’t welcome anymore. Christina admitted to having been a long time, hard drug abuser but when I checked her eyes, teeth and veins (after she told me she was clean), I saw no evidence of current abuse. She’s currently on a waiting list for a homeless shelter which she gladly showed me, describing it as her future “home”. Many of these homes dot the downtown area, so why Seattle?
These children , which they are, had pet pit bulls which seems to be the dog of choice among the homeless. Usually free and not acceptable for adoption, the dogs are everywhere. When I asked them why, they explained that when you had no doors to lock and no alarm system, these protective dogs are the only alarm system they need. I never felt endangered by these dogs as I approached these kids, but I have no doubt that in a dangerous situation that they would be my dog of choice for protection.
After we had a long discussion, I went back to my nice hotel room, and realized what a terrible, comfy life I was leading. I had given these kids a few bucks and asked them in a motherly way to get off the streets for the night and buy a good meal. I turned right around to search for them but it seemed that they had actually taken my advise, or moved to another corner.
As I was writing this, a precious, pixy brunette approached me asking if I could look up a bus route for her. Her name is Kristin and we struck up a conversation about what I was writing about. Perhaps the most disturbing interview I have done yet, was with Kristen. This tiny, sweet, friendly girl was homeless from the ages of 12 to 17. Her tiny nose rings and gauges may put some people off, but that’s so common in Seattle and most big cities, that all I could see was her beautiful smile, and an unmistakable liveliness in her eyes. How does a parent, even the worst of us, allow a 12 year old to end up on the streets? I walked her ( or stalked her) to her bus station peppering her with questions. She’s going to be just fine because she has, for whatever reason, a belief in her own value in this world. No doubt that these kids touched my heart and I can only hope that others will notice their value as humans in this universe. We are all one race, one creation, chosen to occupy this space at the same time.
I saw a young woman, holding up a sign. I asked her to come sit with me, her name is Angie. She’s tiny and walks with a limp from a car accident that took the life of her 3 day old daughter, Ashley. She’s basically tattoo free, but has a massive scar on her arm from a stab wound and an ankle scar from surgery after the wreck that took her daughters life. An abusive boyfriend led her to homelessness and she lives now in a shelter and was very scared of missing her curfew by my impromptu interview.
If she didn’t arrive back at the shelter by 11pm, she would be on the streets again for two weeks at least, which seemed to scare her more than any crime that could be committed against this tiny young lady. We talked as long as we could and she broke my heart, telling me how people had treated her today. One man threw a cup of coffee on this 5 foot tall danger to society that limps along through life with the loss of a child on her shoulders. If she weighs 100 pounds, I would be surprised. She smiles readily and cries about her situation, but I thank God I met her.
I just want to say here again that we are all humans, a creation meant to be intelligent, nurtured, loved, and be contributors to society whether that means simply your family, your friends and community or the entire world.
We can’t all be mother Theresa but sometimes just a few questions, a smile or a hug, can make a fellow human feel like they have a place in this world. So many walk the world with their eyes cast downward avoiding all eye contact. Don’t disconnect! Be focused on others and find whatever way you can to bring a simple smile to their faces.
This has been my favorite blog so far!
Think! Live! Love!