Saturday, January 5, 2008

Bare Survival

I stopped into CJ's in Belltown this morning for a cheap breakfast on my way to work. I've been trying to knock out some accounting for around a month and figured this would be the day. Maybe it will. We'll see.

Just inside CJ's were L and K, two Real Change vendors who've been with us 1994. I joined them. They both said they'd die at Real Change, papers in hand. I confessed to a similar fate, and we clinked coffee cups to seal the deal. They're doing OK. L picked up my tab.

I briefly wondered what it would be like to sell papers myself for off books income, and decided I wasn't quite ready to go there. Not yet anyway.

I was greeted at my desk by the phone. I picked up. "Tim here."

A woman had seen the Operation Sack Lunch article in our recent food issue, and wanted to know how to reach them. I obligingly Googled the info.

"I was so happy to find your paper," she said. "You write about The Problem. I call it The Problem because it's #1. People are barely surviving out there."

"Theres a place in Renton that has sheds," she said. "If you have a piece of land they'll deliver. People live in them."

"What's that say about things," I asked.

"They look beautiful to me," she said. "I live in my car with my kid. Once or twice a week we can afford a hotel, and that keeps us going. I'd love to have a beautiful shed of my own.

"If you don't have good credit now, you're dead. Habitat for Humanity told me they can't help me unless I have good credit. Habitat for Humanity! That's when I knew I was dead.

"The last place I lived, I was evicted because I complained. There was raw sewage pouring out in the front yard. I complained and complained. It wasn't healthy. Finally I called the Health Department. And then I was evicted. Nothing I could do.

"There was a family that lived across the hall from me, and the kids slept on the floor for eight months. Once they covered their rent and food, there was nothing left. Good Will and those places don't have mattresses anymore because they say they cost too much to disinfect. They just don't do it. So no one can afford a bed. And the kids sleep on the floor.

"That's what we've come to. If you don't have credit, you're dead.

"If I ever get back on my feet, I''d like to come down and help you guys. You're the only paper that deals with The Problem. I'm so glad you're there."

A asked her to keep in touch. The accounting still needs to be done.


F.H. said...

Kudos on your blog entry. I know so many people that are in the same boat as the woman you talked to. Once you have an eviction on your credit history you have entered into a ever-widening circle of hell. Having say a HUD voucher in hand doesn't mean you are home safe. This is one of the many issues that the folks drafting the Ten Year Plan For The Elimination Of The Homeless just don't get...

TY said...

Yes...the bed thing is a big deal. it's not like you can load a mattress onto the bus and bring it on home to your new digs...and you can't carry a bed in your backpack. not to mention families who may need many mattresses (and I'm not even talking beds or bedding) In december, I personally heard from at least 4 families (large families) with the good fortune of moving into apartments but all were sleeping on the floor and looking for beds or mattresses and the help to transport them. being able to get a good night's sleep has become a real privilege, even when you find a place to rent.