Homelessness is hard

Record Editorial

  • Friday, October 3, 2008 2:46am
  • Opinion

I received a heartfelt, hand-written letter from a North Bend woman who is terrfied. Because of illness, she said, she couldn’t pay her bills and became homeless. The shelters were full and area agencies were unable to provide the help she needed to get off the streets.

She described how she slept in an abandoned car with rats, can’t get to the doctor and has no friends to help. She describes how her health has plummeted in the past few months. The only woman who showed any interest in helping her, an elderly woman she met while in the hospital, died several weeks ago. An even crueler irony is this woman who was put out on the streets provided many homeless teens with a place to stay before she fell ill.

“My tears have not stopped flowing since all this started,” she wrote. “I went through all the right channels and the system failed me.”

I have no easy way to get ahold of her. She is homeless and has no phone. She sent e-mails last month but doesn’t have regular access. Privacy concerns prevent area organizations that provide aid to people in dire financial straits from confirming or denying the facts of this woman’s case, or whether she had even sought aid from them. What they were able to tell me is that she is not alone. The Valley is full of people living on the margins, either homeless or without sufficient food, medicine and the other basic necessities of life. The backlog for emergency housing is more than a year long with waiting lists of many dozens.

When a person needs emergency housing and the shelters are full, as can often happen, where are people to turn when the wait for assistance is that long? The answer is that often, there is nowhere to turn.

When I started as editor for the Valley Record in mid-June, I immediately had an introduction to the area’s homeless population. I hadn’t yet found a place to live when my job started. As many are aware, rent isn’t cheap here. When I did find a place to stay, it wasn’t immediately available; I spent nearly two weeks camping at an area park until my rented room was open.

One of my fellow campers was a man about 60 years old. He said he had a home but his roommates were addicted to methamphetamine so he preferred to camp, a way of life he enjoys. He works part time as a landscaper, a job he doesn’t really like, but it paid his site fees and allowed him to buy food and fortified malt liquor.

He is a self-admitted alcoholic who also has diabetes. I could hear his groans from his tent at night as the sugars in the alcohol pained his sleep. He said he would prefer to die in his tent rather than any other way, except perhaps in bed with a beautiful woman, and he knows his drinking and diabetes are speeding him on his way and had landed him comatose in the emergency room several times in the past.

I spent my evenings chatting and dining with my camping neighbor. He told great stories and sang Beatles songs (horribly out of tune). He planned to move to another park so he wouldn’t overstay his welcome with the park managers. He was worried he’d have to resort to what he called “illegal camping,” basically hiding his tent in the woods, if he couldn’t get another advance on his pay to cover camping fees.

I haven’t seen him since. I wish him well. He, like the woman whose illness forced her out of her home, are part of the Valley’s invisible population of people living on the streets.

For those of you who pray, you might consider praying for them and all the others who could use our help. For those who want to provide physically-tangible help, Hopelink, the Salvation Army, area churches and food banks can all use volunteers and contributions to enable them to better provide the assistance that is in such short supply.





In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing editor@valleyrecord.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.valleyrecord.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

More in Opinion

Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He retired as president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, and lives in Vancouver. He can be contacted at thebrunells@msn.com.
Why should the threat to Taiwan concern us in WA? | Brunell

Unfortunately, what happens in Taiwan doesn’t just stay in Taiwan — it… Continue reading

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.
Election 2021: Closer look at King County races | Roegner

The race for Mayor of Seattle will dominate the regional media, but… Continue reading

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.
Questions surround vaccine exemptions for state workers | Roegner

With about 4,800 state employees in 24 agencies requesting vaccine exemptions, which… Continue reading

Dr. Jayendrina Singha Ray serves as Faculty of English at Highline College. Her research interests include postcolonial studies, spatial literary studies, British literature, and rhetoric and composition. Prior to teaching in the U.S., she worked as an editor with Routledge and taught English at colleges in India.
What the Afghan wants to say: Arezo’s journey to America | Guest column

In our little Zoom room, I hear my interviewee break into sobs.… Continue reading

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.
Can a Texas-style abortion law happen in Washington? | Roegner

If politicians really want to anger women voters, the easiest way is… Continue reading

Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He retired as president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, and lives in Vancouver. He can be contacted at thebrunells@msn.com.
Reasons to ban Gov. Jay Inslee’s natural gas ban | Brunell

Column: Switching from natural gas to electricity is complicated and will impact everyone.

William Shaw is General Manager of the Snoqualmie Valley Record. Contact: wshaw@valleyrecord.com.
Independent community journalism is crucial — now more than ever

During these times of change and division, the need to highlight what brings our community together is even stronger.

Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He recently retired as president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, and now lives in Vancouver. He can be contacted at thebrunells@msn.com.
Vaccinations improve our health and employment numbers | Brunell

It is not surprising that COVID-19, which ravaged the world, was disastrous… Continue reading

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.
Firefighters vs. the governor’s vaccine mandate | Roegner

We all thought we were in this fight with the coronavirus together,… Continue reading

Providence employees look at anti-vaccine mandate protesters as they cross the street outside of Providence Regional Medical Center Everett on Aug. 18, 2021. Olivia Vanni/Sound Publishing
Editorial: A message to the unvaccinated and unmasked

We know you’re frustrated with mandates and advice, but consider our frustrations and, yes, our anger.

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.
Back to the classroom during abnormal times | Roegner

If it didn’t feel so normal, we might forget about the coronavirus… Continue reading

Robert Toomey, CFA/CFP, is Vice President of Research for S. R. Schill & Associates on Mercer Island.
What’s up with the real estate market? | Guest column

As we all know, the residential real estate market and prices have… Continue reading