[This is a post originally written by Lucas Hedrick and posted on nextdoor.com on 6 February 2017 for the neighborhoods Mt. Baker, Columbia City, Beacon Hill and Leschi in Seattle. As of 22 March 2017, it had been “thanked” 303 times and generated 206 replies.]
This is a long story (and without much punctuation:) ) so only dig in if you are ready to read a bit…
This morning as I was driving to a friends house for lunch. I passed the Rainier homeless camp as I usually do with an uncomfortable feeling in my gut. I saw no people wandering around just snow covered tents and I thought to myself, jeez it must be cold out there. As I continued driving to the friends house, I thought, I am driving from my heated house to another heated house in my heated car. By the time I arrived I was in a very down mood and was very distracted during my visit. I chose to leave earlier than planned because I could not shake the feeling. Driving home, I thought today could have been spent cooking soup to feed these people, or maybe a neighborhood could have cooked and could have brought soup and blankets and jackets to warm these people during some of the coldest weather of the year. I had a few stops on my way home, mostly on Rainier but of coarse I had to make it past the homeless camp one more time. This time I saw small fires burning, people standing around trying to warm themselves and others trying to put another layer over their tent houses. This time the feeling was strong. I drove straight home, walked in the door and told my 15 year old daughter to get dressed, I needed her help. I headed downstairs and grabbed 20 plus moving blankets, raided closets for down jackets hanging unused, raincoats, any type of weather gear and loaded up the car. My daughter asked what are we doing going to a homeless center or something? I said not quite, with a little smile. We stopped by McDonald’s and I ordered 50 cheeseburgers and 25 orders of fries, they took my ID and kept asking me if I was sure. I said yes I’ll be back in 20 minutes so have them ready. Then we drove a little further down Rainier, flipped a U-turn and pulled over leaving our hazards on just before the bus zone. We grabbed as many blankets and jackets as we could and headed in. We were greeted with a bit of scepticism but when I said we have blankets and jackets we want to hand out we were given a smile. We made our way around the incredibly muddy hill with one kind man who walked us from tent to tent and asked each of them if they needed more blankets for the night, we did not receive one decline and nobody took more than one, or two if they had two people. One guy walked up with a scarf around his face and a large pole stick and stared at me. I said hey man you need another blanket tonight? He softened, pulled the scarf down and said, dang you handin out blankets? I thought you were here to tell us to move off the hill, thank you so much for coming, we are all pretty wet and it’s been cold. I know, I said, that’s why I came. I told the kind man that escorted us around the hill that I had ordered burgers and would be back in 10 minutes and would he mind helping me distribute them when I came back, he said no problem just park down there I will watch for your car. I was a little nervous, I hoped I had gotten enough so nobody go left out but my daughter assured me there were maybe only 30 people up there home at the moment. We headed through the drive through again this time announcing we were here to pick up the 50 cheeseburgers and fries, they laughed and said yep we will see you at the first window. I told them before leaving the first time that I needed them for the homeless camp so they had them all packed up in a big box with lots of catsup and napkins for me. When we arrived, I found my friend again and we again walked tent to tent and offered our food to them. Everyone was very kind and gracious and not taking more than they needed for their “household”. One woman was trying to thank me but just nodded at me as she was shoving the food in, she swallowed hard and said she was sorry but that she was so hungry but thank you could she possibly have two if there was enough for everyone. My daughter handed her two extra. The big tent opened their door and asked if we were the ones that just dropped off the blankets, I said yes sir we were. He was not dressed but covered below the waist with blankets. He laughed and said he would invite me in but he didn’t have anything dry to wear and he was trying to stay warm. He thanked me for the blanket and the food. The mud was so deep and squishy in areas I almost lost a shoe once or twice and my daughters Christmas Ugg boots were covered over the top. We got through the hill one more time as it was getting pretty dark, I asked my escort friend if he could get us safely down the hill and back to our car, he nodded and slowly and carefully navigated us down the slippery slope. I had maybe ten cheeseburgers left and a few fries and asked if he could make sure those who were still hungry or missed us would be fed, he nodded a gentle nod and said I will do that for you my friend. We walked back wet and muddy and a bit out of breath to our car with the heater. I turned to my daughter and said, what do you want for dinner?…she said, not McDonalds. I just wanted to share our experience while it was still fresh. I am not sharing this to you for praise, heroism, respect, positive comments or any of the such. I am sharing this to remind you to not forget that homeless people are people too and need us to remember them and reach out to them anyway we can until we as a whole find a way to end homelessness. Small kind acts from individuals or small groups can make a big difference. Instead of praise or comments I would like to hear stories of others stepping outside of the box and doing things for others in need. We all get that feeling, we just don’t know how to ACT. Just act, do anything, smile, hand someone a meal, bring clothing you don’t use and blankets in your closets. Homeless people are exposed and mostly cast aside and forgotten in this city. Please remember them in our fights for injustices in the world. They are still and will always be Americans just like you and me.