[Hpn] census in Seattle tent city

Anitra Freeman anitra@speakeasy.org
Sun, 30 Apr 2000 17:22:19 -0700 (PDT)


On Fri, 28 Apr 2000 HOBOMATT@AOL.COM wrote:

> Here in Colorado Springs, we 'piggy-backed' a local homeless survey onto the 
> April1 US Census, in get a handle on how many and who is out there. However, 
> in the catagory list of "what contributes to your being homeless", the form 
> only offers negative responses: can't afford rent, fled domestic violence, 
> lost job, substance use, lack of education and so on. We totally left out the 
> 10 to 20% for whom it is a life-style choice and offer positive reasons for 
> living outside. Glad to see that in Seattle that reality is acknowledged (and 
> talked about).

One of the oldest (in both senses) members of SHARE is a Native American
named George who has been outside for 20 years.  He walks from end to
end of the city every day, looking in on "his people" camped outside and
asking if they need anything.  He's helped other people get inside, but
for twenty years he's refused to come inside himself.

I saw him yesterday, and he told me he has signed a lease for an
apartment.  I automatically said, "That's great!" before I did a
double-take.  This is *George*, moving into an apartment?  He said,
deadpan, "I don't know whether it's great or not.  I just know I got an
apartment."

Maybe George will successfully make the transition.  It will be
difficult for him.  There are other people outside for whom it's even
more difficult -- folks with PTSD, folks who just plain can't abide
sharing a small room with a lot of strangers.  I don't know any City
officials, and very few service providers, who would willingly sleep in
a small room with thirty strangers.  Why are they so suprised that there
are homeless folks who won't do it?

The challenge is getting respect and a dignified alternative for those
who choose not to come inside, while not letting the City (or others)
claim that *everyone* outside is there by choice.

Write On! / Anitra L. Freeman / http://www.speakeasy.org/~anitra/
"Never doubt that a small group of imperfect people can improve the
world--indeed they are the only ones who ever have." Not Margaret Mead