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Opinion | There are no easy answers, or typical faces, for the Valley's homeless
Say the city or county wanted to build a homeless center next to your home. Would you welcome it? Or would you head straight to town hall to protest?
Don’t think it couldn’t happen. Right now, there are folks in the Valley who say we need a shelter, as a potential life saver and a tool to help willing people lift themselves out of terrible circumstances.
North Bend, Carnation and Snoqualmie are very different from downtown Seattle, and yet we, like the big cities, have a homeless population—small, numbering perhaps in the dozens, perhaps much more, but still very real. And with homelessness comes a host of issues that we shouldn’t ignore.
The possibility of a future Valley homeless shelter was one of a number of eye-opening lessons that myself and staff writer Carol Ladwig took in over the last few weeks as part of this paper’s “Faces of Homelessness” series.
Some lessons quickly shocked, others slowly settled in. The first was the realization that there are people living just minutes away who cannot take being warm, safe or dry for granted. I found myself continually asking homeless man Joey Bradshaw if there was anything that I could get for him. I’m hardly wealthy, but that gap between what I possess and what he possesses is heart-stopping.
And yet, the homeless aren’t that much different from the rest of us. A divorce, a drug addiction, a job loss or a broken relationship may be enough for someone to lose the roof over his head. Homelessness comes in so many forms, from the more ‘visible’ invisible people who can sometimes be found at the library, in the park or under the bridge, to the people couch-surfing with friends in the Valley or just passing through, that there really is no typical ‘face’ of homelessness in the Valley. We have every kind.
Fortunately, for our size, the Valley also has a lot of resources. There are organizations like the Salvation Army, Hopelink and the Mount Si Food Bank, which has a special emphasis on helping homeless. Then there are the individual efforts: Jane Rosenkranz and her team of crocheters, who make sleeping mats for the homeless, or Owen Rooney’s campaign to distribute tents, tarps and stoves for cold winter nights. A lot of good is being done by people who respect the fact that the homeless are people, too.
Could we do more, though? If the hope for a Valley homeless shelter ever comes closer to reality, there are only hard questions—such as where it should go and how it should affect the community around it—and no easy answers. But before you decide whether a homeless shelter would be a good fit for the Valley, think about what it might be like to live in your car, or sleep on pavement. Warmth, shelter and safety aren’t things that every one of us can take for granted.
• Consider joining Rosenkranz’ crochet group by calling (425) 888-0385) or donating supplies to Rooney’s team by e-mailing to firstname.lastname@example.org. The holidays may be over, but need in the Valley spans the calendar.