I’ve started picking up garbage at “The Field,” a big, disorganized encampment downtown (at Airport Way S & S Royal Brougham Way). The Field is unofficial, a place where people landed after the City closed down “The Jungle.” It’s what’s known as a “low-barrier” encampment, meaning that the people who live there may be doing drugs, or may have profound mental illness or other serious problems. They are not always capable of taking care of themselves or others, and one result is that trash accumulates in piles within the camp.
On the nature of being and other deep topics.
For several months before the election, this blog was about politics. Now, it’s about direct service. I’ve left the old material up for reference.
I was very much involved with local land-use policy, specifically the fight over dense development in single-family zones. At its root, that fight is about whether the benefits of growth will be fairly distributed among all residents of our city, or will instead be stolen by rich private businesses in collusion with ideologically-driven politicians. Sadly, the latter result is most likely.
Homelessness in Seattle is the result of corrupt and immoral politics. The influx of tech money and foreign money drives up the price of housing, people cannot afford the rent, and we see a 20% increase in homelessness, year-to-year. Support systems are gutted to pay for tax cuts for the rich, and our weakest and most vulnerable citizens are left to freeze, to starve, and to suffer without help.
I have turned away from politics, and to direct service. In these days, to care for our most vulnerable neighbors is an act of resistance. This blog will henceforth chronicle the struggle for survival that happens daily, right under our noses.
When I learned that Tr*mp would win, I was in the community tent at Camp Second Chance, an independent homeless encampment on unpermitted public land in West Seattle. I was happy that I was there, among vulnerable and dispossessed people – many people of color, women, and disabled – who have the most to lose.
Later, I made 20 cups of Sloppy Joes, which will be tortilla-wrapped sandwiches today for the residents of Camp United We Stand, another independent encampment, as they move their tents from Richmond Beach United Church of Christ to St. Dunstan’s Episcopal in Shoreline. I can feed people for about $1 each.
My new friend Polly Trout (who leads the support effort for Camp Second Chance) posted this earlier today: “May those of us with privilege use it as a community resource.” That is my position and this is what I am choosing to do. I am discovering that acts of service calm and focus me, even in the face of disaster. There is security in action.
I have spent the last couple of weeks preparing and delivering meals to homeless encampments and shelters. This is an education! Each encampment is different, with its own population, atmosphere, and support system.
I have delivered food to: Tent City 3 (77 people on N. 125th St.), Camp Second Chance (25 people on Myers Way), and Mary’s Place Family Shelter (women and children on N. 130th St.). I delivered a complete meal with beef stew and salad, prepared by a church; burritos prepared in my own kitchen; and pasta/bean soup prepared in the kitchen of a Zendo (Buddhist congregation).
At each destination, I found people who combined sadness with hope. These are folks who, at least, are not sleeping on the street, have other people around them for support and companionship, and who, upon my arrival, were receiving food from strangers. I did meet some people for whom desperation and chaos were obviously lurking just beneath the surface of their current, stable, circumstances, but where I’ve been so far, the systems are working.