In May, we presented a program entitled Our Evolving Community, which was facilitated by Shanna Crutchfield, who is a trainer for Race and Social Justice Issues. She asked each attendee to write one word on an index card which best described community for us. She took the results at the end of our gathering to create a visual, displayed here.
Her panel described personal experiences in community. And one case, the panelist presented an historical view of Seattle from the days the Bostons (the white settlers were called this by the native people) arrived in Elliot Bay. I protested that it didn’t have to be the way it ultimately was as there was much cooperation and even marriage between the settlers and the first people in the beginning. What changed? One audience member suggested fear and I see this is being borne out by surveys recently analyzing the 2016 election: Fear of losing status. This was unsettling; as a woman of a certain age, I have always felt that we (women) have relatively little status which is some amorphous thing carefully shielded by white men and in that time, it didn’t seem at all possible that their status could ever be challenged. But these are different times.
One can see similarities between the changing view toward native peoples in the early days (once whites no longer needed their expertise at surviving here) and the complaints about the homeless people on the NextDoor communication. They are dirty, messy, don’t have our values and they aren’t like us. I imagine there are many of us who might get depressed at a homeless life…no automatic coffeemaker in the morning after a cold and perhaps wet attempt to sleep on the ground, perhaps some fear at leaving your tent at night not knowing who your neighbors are. It’s hard to have any pride of place when you don’t have a place. That is the beauty of the tiny houses to me. A door that locks, walls to decorate as you wish and even a small ground area to plant something beautiful in lives that have lost much beauty. There is a task for you to do so you feel you are giving back—perhaps a rekindling of hope.
When I visited the Tiny House Village on 22 near Union, I heard that some residents have outside duty…picking up litter on the sidewalk outside the encampment and how that had become a bigger job with the construction workers on the 6 story building across 22nd. If you watch the workers, it’s a lot like the students who would buy something at Red Apple for lunch and shed the paper bag and wrappings as they ate and walked back to school.
I worry about the homeless kids; they grow up without the security the rest of us have and that provides the impulse to do something to solve this problem. As a social worker in my working life, I know that kids need a good start in life with food on the table and a roof over their heads and if we don’t fix this problem, it will haunt us for generations to come.