Well, in Part 1, I covered recreation. Seriously? Recreation? There is very little recreation. You are actually working at being homeless 24/7. Again, it isn’t easy. You wait in lines, you walk, you ride the bus, you eat lots of cold cut sandwiches, you wait in line, you ride the bus, I’m sorry, I’m getting repetitive.
Then, the library.
I spent a good amount of time at the Seattle Public Library. This was back in the day when their computers were DOS operated. There were areas of the library with computer tables, four, five, even six terminals in a long row. Green or black screens on the monitors with bright green text. No ‘mouses.’ If you knew which terminal to sit on, you could actually sit and chat for a while with people from all over the world, most others in places like libraries. You could even play RPG DOS games, build virtual worlds, lots of cool stuff to do. They all had access to the library database across King County, the seat of Seattle, as well as neighboring counties’ public libraries. King County is rather small and Seattle occupies all of it. The hours would fly by. It was my first introduction to computers. Today, there is nearly nothing I am not able to accomplish with one. I run my own business from mine from my home.
While I visited the library, I developed a desire to research the origin of the English language, I researched the cause of FAS (Fetal Alcohol Syndrome,) the history of currency in the US, and many other subjects like astronomy, religion and superstition. An amazing book I read on FAS was “The Broken Cord,” by Michael Dorris. A story about an Indian boy who was given up by his mother. He was born an FAS baby. My mother drank while she was pregnant with my two younger brothers. I wanted to know what they may have gone through. I suggest the book to everyone, certainly to pregnant mothers regardless of their habits.
There were actually places in the library where homeless citizens would congregate. Many in the newspaper section. I would ‘hang’ there. The Seattle Times and The Post-Intelligencer. They were then owned by their respective publication names, today they are both owned and published by the Seattle Times.
Anyway, most people are intrigued, or curious, or dependent, upon the newspaper for daily information. I was, still am somewhat, although now days I get nearly all daily news and reports online. I think a huge part of the general population does. Anyway, the library was a good place to get local news as well as newspapers from other towns and cities in Washington state. I used to go upstairs to the “Out-of-area” newspaper section of the library and read the paper from my hometown of Aberdeen, WA.
My homeless resolutions.
OK, I have spoken of standing in line, which I have given a bit of information about. Here is some more info on that.
When you are homeless, you must accept that those whom are not unstable, dispossessed, homeless, regard you as second class. No, I am not paranoid, nor am I stereotyping anyone. I know of what I speak from experience. I know that if you somehow can dress or not ‘look’ homeless, you are treated differently. It’s not abusive or cruel, but you are treated differently. “How long have you been homeless” from people whom you have never seen or met before, as if you are willing to just give it up, or that you are actually looking for someone to tell such info to, because you look it. They usually whisper it as though they are the only one in the room who can tell that you are. I always chose to get into line at the end of the line, or take a stand in the shortest line because it was usually out of sight of the ‘eyes.’ You don’t like people looking at you, and often they stare. Because of this, I did my absolute best to appear fine, stable, ‘homed.’ It worked well most of the time. There are times when you just get tired of keeping appearances. You just want to let it go for a time. From day to day, you have to work to do anything. When I say ‘work,’ I mean make an effort above what everyone else does. For instance, to take a shower. You have to first remember, or find out, where the closest public shower is. Most marinas have more than just a few. Back then they ran for five minutes on a dime. So, first off, if you choose a marina, you have to get change. Then, you have to decide whether you want to keep your backpack with you. It is your world, your home, your dresser, medicine cabinet, library, kitchen, bedroom, etc. You have a few options. Find a public restroom. Change into clean clothes, if you have them with you, take a bus to a ferry terminal, rent a locker for a dollar all day, leave your backpack (your house,) head for the shower you want to use, which involves having pocket change, ride the bus, and finally, get off at the marina. If the marina is tended (very few are), you can secure a towel, a wash cloth, soap and shampoo. All in small packages. Slip your dime in the slot, wait for the water to warm, drop another dime, take your shower. Return the towel and wash cloth. Toss everything else. Ride the bus back to the locker you paid for. Make sure when you board the bus outward bound to the shower to get a transfer so you can re-board within the hour after you leave the marina. Seattle Metro allows free return boarding as long as you board within the hour that your transfer is torn off on. (When you ride Seattle Metro, you pay as you leave the bus FROM downtown, and pay as you BOARD to downtown. If the bus doesn’t go downtown, you pay as you board. All issue transfers if you ask. Normally they just give you one regardless.) Get to your locker, grab your stuff and get busy looking for a place to either eat breakfast, lunch or dinner depending on what you have been doing for the day. If you worked, it is evening. If it is Sunday, you look for lunch.
There, a huge paragraph just to outline what it takes to get a shower. This stuff is tough.
Getting a meal isn’t too hard, although, getting a meal where you sit inside of a building and converse with other people is a different story. As I look on Google Earth, I see that the plaza in the “Judicial District” in downtown Seattle at 4th Ave. and Cherry St. is no longer accessible, or has been demolished. The photo to the left. (I now live in Georgia. I moved here in 2001 to marry.) There used to be a soup line there every weekday at 3pm to feed the public. I attended often. You didn’t have to be homeless to partake, although, I believe the impetus was to feed the needy, without a doubt. I met many good people at that soup line. Many really good folks.
There was a lunch room out in Ballard. ‘Rode the 15 bus to the 44 bus many times, and as always, met good people. The added bonus of meeting people and sharing stories was always a part of heading across town to get a meal. You could always take your backpack because you would always have it with you instead of having to leave it ‘outside.’ Fear of weapons, etc. by the staff or the providers. People are nutty sometimes. I suspect this is not as permissible as it once was.. The shower thing? No. Your backpack can’t be IN the shower with you.
The Final step.
Of course, I eventually became stable again. Before that, I applied for housing, but it’s hard to keep that going if you have no address. I don’t know if they ever tried to contact me. It’s called “Section 8 Housing.” I took jobs from The Millionair Club, I even took referrals from the Employment Security office on 4th Ave. uptown. While there once, I met Jim Hayes. A really nice guy. He had a house on Hilltop, this is on the east side of Capital Hill in Seattle. Very nice neighborhood. During an interview for a temp position, which I did not get, he asked if I could do some work for him. Jim needed insulation installed in his home in the attic. A huge attic. The ceiling was at least a floor and a half above the attic floor. ‘Had to use a ladder to install the styrofoam sheet insulation. The job took a couple of weeks. Jim lived alone and enjoyed having company while he was home, so this all worked out well. We worked on his house on weekends. He knew I was homeless, but he had no issue with it at all. I knew he was gay, and he had no issue with me being heterosexual. It was refreshing to be on a non-judgmental level with someone for a change. Jim became a good friend. I wish I were still in contact with him.
The above relationship really helped me to stop judging people. I used to do so often, harshly and readily. I still have struggles with it, but my lovely wife is the mirror that keeps me thinking and realizing that I am much less important than others. When you judge others in prejudice, you limit the possibility of that person ever becoming helpful to you due to you keeping them at a distance. Your loss, their gain. Holding your sign of hate so close to your face blocks any view of opportunities you may be offered because your hate blocks your view.
I’m going to jump ahead a bit here. On to the final three years of this situation.
In 1997, my brother Kevin, the first brother younger than me and older than our youngest brother, Kary, called me. The Employment Security Office I mentioned above would take messages over the phone if you registered to do so with them. They would pin a memo to the bulletin board, you pick it up and do what you will with it. “So and so called, contact them at such and such for a job or whatever.” Kevin wanted me to come to Everett, a town 35 miles north of Seattle, and a good-sized town. Roughly, 180,000 people. He had been working under contract in his upholstery trade for a woman who owned an upholstery shop. I guess he figured I could handle it so he called me and asked if I wanted to try it out. I said “Sure, anything is better than this.”
I had asked Kevin once during this homeless period if I could crash at his house till I got things together. “No.” Time to move on.
I accepted with the hope that I wouldn’t have to depend on him for anything other that direction and guidance, but only in the workspace. I wouldn’t accept any handout from him out of fear of being beholden to him. I didn’t need, or want, anyone on my back about anything. It worked exactly that way.
I got a business license. I got a tax number. I started contracting to Jeanice Pelayo, proprietor of T & T Upholstery. I took “The Lord’s Work” as a business name.
Ok, looking up. Kevin asked me if, now that I was making money, would I want to stay at his house till I could put some money together, get on my feet and do the right thing. I agreed. I stayed with him for less than a month, I think. It’s been 20+ years and my memory is a bit foggy at this stage. However, I knew that he was not all that happy about this, so I was a bit disenfranchised regardless. As it goes, undoubtedly, he and Jeanice were collaborating on a way to get me established somehow as soon as possible. I was new to Everett and really had no idea of what was in town that I could approach with the intent of becoming stable again. Paying rent on my own space.
I stayed with my brother one other time while working is Seattle after the incident in Part 1 with Pauline. I was working for a paint shop and when Pauline and I separated, I asked my brother if he could help me out. (I commuted by bus from Edmonds to south downtown Seattle for a short while.) He agreed, but it was also an acrimonious parting. As kids, my brother and I did fine together, but as adulthood took it’s place in our lives, we quickly grew distant from each other.
At one point Jeanice approached me and told me that the Everett Men’s Mission would be a situation to look into. I said, “Sure.” So one afternoon, we got into her truck, headed to the Mission, got me squared away with a bed and a weeks stay at $5/per night. You could pay for a maximum of five consecutive days at a time. I had the cash, the confidence and, certainly was eligible. I had to sit down with the mission evaluation staff to reveal my mind-set, long-term goals, was I possibly suicidal or violent. I was not, and still am not any of those risks. None the less, they need to know. I would ask the same questions in the same situation. Fast forward three years.
Well, it took me nearly three years to the day to come back to a state of stability. I finally got self-sufficient enough to put some money together, all this time still contracting as ‘The Lord’s Work’ to ‘T and T Upholstery.’ I took what I had, went looking for an apartment and came up empty-handed at first. Then, one morning while I was setting up for the next job at T and T, Jeanice approached me (she actually worked in the same building) and told me that her mother managed the Clermont Apts. at 25th Ave. and Colby St. in downtown Everett and that she could talk to her about possibly renting me a space. I told her to let me think about it for a couple of days. Of course, you’re thinking “Jump on it. Get it together.” Think about this. I have just been through five years of not having any overhead other than a nightly $5 cot, no fridge to keep stocked, no mortgage, no insurance payments, no car to support and empty-handed. You see what I mean? Really, who wouldn’t like to get out from under all of that? [/sarcasm] The drawback is that with all that freedom from responsibility and bills comes severe restriction. Granted, the Mission provided beds for $5 (you could pay for five-day blocks or daily. I think the five-day limit was to disallow ‘using’ the mission on an ongoing basis) free meals three times a day and a nightly, required, Bible study.
Ok, I told Jeanice I would gladly sit down with her mother and talk this over. We did, she accepted me. The day I moved in I brought a tv, a Playstation, an expensive bicycle and a backpack. Yep, that was all. After a year I was doing much better. Stable job, living quarters, I even owned a cat. Picked up a stray out of the alley, fed him, nurtured him, we became great friends. I even brought him out here to Georgia when I moved here. He was not going to be left behind. During that time, I would go to the mission, find a friend or two, invite them back to my place to spend the night and get away from the ‘schedule.’ Pizza, beer,tv, whatever worked to relieve the stress. The next morning, I would slap $5 in their hand and send them on their way. We would sometimes sit around and talk about Christ and the Bible. It was all good. I was giving back to the community, mainly, the needy.
So, over the second year of living in the Clermont, I decided that I wanted to live closer to work which was about ten blocks from my apt. I took a job at Erickson Furniture which was a block south and across the street from T and T. Better pay too. I found a small place. Didn’t like that it was smaller, but I lived closer to work. Across the street from Erickson and a block south. It took less than five minutes to get to work.
Eventually, I bought a used computer from my boss. I figured that ‘used,’ to start out with, was a good move. He sold it to me for the price he paid for it, three years earlier. I got raped.
Anyway, I took it home. Fired it up. Played with it and six months later, met my now lovely wife through the use of it.
OK, the rest here is just fodder to fill the end of this page, so I am going to forgo such to write about what ‘homelessness’ actually taught me in Part 3.