Two months ago, a homeless camp opened up to 100 residents just two blocks from where I live. Since then, I have been taking note of how my community is changing. Some of these events may or may not be the result of the new encampment (either directly or indirectly) – this is just what I’ve seen firsthand.
February 21: Mayor Ed Murray announces that the location of the third homeless camp will be in Rainier Valley, exactly 2 blocks south of my apartment. Read the Seattle Times article here.
March 6: Someone has fastened large hand-drawn letters to the chain link fence that spell out “WELCOME NEIGHBORS.” Several days later, the wind and rain have removed most of the letters.
March 8: Driving home from work, I see the first person of the tent city – a person sitting at a folding table under a large white tent at the entrance.
March 11: The Nickelsville homeless camp closes, and residents are given 30 minutes to clear out.
March 14: Driving home from work, there was a manned registration or security booth at the front street entrance. Walking by at 10 PM, at least 2 of the 5 single-room houses, painted in bright colors, have signs of life in the windows. One window facing out onto the street glows blue from some electronic screen.
March 18: There is a drunk and/or crazy guy dancing and gesturing wildly on the street corner by the crosswalk. In all fairness, this has happened several times over the past year, before Rainier Valley was even considered as a location for the homeless tent city.
March 22: In addition to the small single-room houses, plywood platforms have been constructed for tents. Over a dozen mounds of tarps huddle together like wrinkled ant hills. A nicely dressed woman with expensive camera equipment stands out front, anxiously looking for her ride. The media is only interested in the story until it no longer sells and Seattle residents don’t care anymore.
March 29: While walking to the grocery store, a painfully thin woman asked me for change, or a cigarette, while I was waiting at the crosswalk. This has never happened to me in the neighborhood before. It will happen once more in the next month.
March 31: While walking to my friend’s house several blocks away, I noticed that there’s significantly more trash all over the street: empty soda bottles thrown in trees, empty cigarette cartons, prepackaged processed food wrappers on the sidewalks and huge Starbucks frappuccino cups dropped in neighbors’ front gardens.
April 1: The gas station one block north of the tent city now has two giant dumpsters out in front that I’ve never seen before – one for recycling and one for trash. I’m not sure if they are for the gas station or the encampment, but when trash days coincide with warm weather, the neighborhood smells like toasted garbage and sadness.
April 6: A rooster’s crowing woke me up at sunrise. I’ve heard lots of strange bird noises in the city, but this is definitely a first. Who in Rainier Valley would have a rooster?
April 12: There are no more media reporters or photographers. Everyone has lost interest because it’s not their neighborhood and they don’t care. But I care.
April 24: I have lived in the neighborhood less than a year, so I don’t know how early in the spring that people begin to hang out on street corners and talk loudly late at night. I’ve seen a lot of interesting characters in the past year, so I don’t think this is a new thing.
May 1: While driving home from work, I saw a man in ratty clothing at the intersection in front of my building. I’ve seen him going in and out of the tent city several times, so I would assume he lives there – except for the fact that he was blatantly smoking some sort of drugs from a glass pipe in his hand. Maybe the homeless encampment’s “drug and substance free” policy only applies to the land it’s located on, and not the actual residents? How is this rule being enforced? I’m really glad that I’ve signed a lease to live in Rainier Valley for another year.
May 3: Okay, who owns that rooster?! I’m going to sell it to the McDonald’s down the street.