Friday, May 16, 2008

Driving home tonight down Rainier Avenue
I saw a man in a light blue suit pushing a shopping cart
containing a sleeping bag (among other things)
into traffic. He wanted to cross. In the middle of Friday
traffic. I stopped as he wended his way around cars.
When he got in front of my car, instead of continuing on
to the curb, he decided to turn his cart 45 degrees and
continue down Rainier in front of me. My first inclination
was to open my window and yell. Then the "C" word
popped into my head: Compassion. I thought: quite possibly
everything this man owns is in that shopping cart. That sleeping
bag is most likely his bed. And the blue suit, well, it was a good fit.
He kept motioning back to me with his hand, like, "just hold on,
I'm busy."  When I thought about it, I was really in no particular rush 
to get home to my comfortable house and the glass 
of red wine, pizza, shaved parmesan on my salad could wait. 
A reasonable guess was that he was homeless, perhaps mentally ill.
After a few moments, he turned his cart to the curb, bumped it up
onto the sidewalk, and I continued on my way home, 
in my fuel-efficient car, my cell-phone at the ready, 
certain of a bed, a meal, a well-stocked refrigerator, 
a lock on every door.
O fragile universe!


  1. There are 50% more homeless people in Seattle this year than there were last year. Many of them live under the freeway on the greenbelts and in the city's many parks. Last week the city evicted the homeless from Kinnear Park. A police "advocate" for the homeless accompanied the police as all of the belongings of the homeless people including their sleeping bags, were thrown into a giant dumpster. The advocate spoke to each homeless person. This is what she had to say. There are only ten available beds in the shelters. I wonder how she chose? The least drunk? The best dressed? And I wonder where the rest of the folks went. Carkeek Park and Golden Gardens have already been evicted.

    How can a city that is growing so fast only have "ten available beds" in shelters for homeless people, on a spring night when it isn't raining?

  2. It is a disgrace when a city commits this kind of offense. And it is theft. In this very prosperous region, the lack of housing for the homeless is inexcusable.