Donna Hawkey: Dreamers

Monday, December 17, 2018

Wes Browning is a columnist for Real Change
and a speaker at the recent NUHSA forums
Mike Dee is familiar to many in Lake Forest Park, Shoreline, and even Kenmore. What is not so familiar is that Mike is a person who experienced homelessness in Portland, Oregon for 11 years.

He is one of the far too many who have experienced homelessness but is grateful to be able to let others know about this challenging and often cruel way to live. 

Wes Browning, from the Seattle newspaper “Real Change,” also experienced homeless living four times during his life.

Wes talked about city “sweeps” at a recent North Urban Human Services Alliance (NUHSA) meetings held in Kenmore and Shoreline.

“The sweeps even rob you of your clothes, and you can get hypothermia and die,” says Wes, who earned a Mathematics Ph.D. from Cornell University.

(Cities order “sweeps” of places where people experiencing homelessness have set up camping tents for shelter, often responding to business or resident complaints.)

The tents and everything on the site are swept-up and hauled away by trucks, and the homeless community as a whole is destroyed as well as their personal belongings.

“Think of it how it would feel if someone robbed your home and kicked you out of your bed, too!” said Wes.

Mike and Wes are dreamers.

They want people to think about how cold they become if they are waiting 10 minutes for a bus during the winter. When you are homeless, you will multiply that bone-chilling feeling times 24 hours. Finding a place for all those who have nowhere to sleep is crucial, especially during the cold months.

“Every day, we all need to sleep uninterrupted to fall into (REM) sleep which is required for dreaming,” says Mike. And we need proper sleep for overall physical and brain health too.

But many pedestrians and residents also get frightened and become uncomfortable when approaching people who have become homeless, or unhoused. For instance, it is very difficult when a tent camp is so dirty to even look that way.

“If a person’s existence is not acknowledged, it is considered the most emotionally painful thing that someone can experience. When you are in crisis, you can feel alone, unheard and scared,” says Kevin St. Jacques PsyD, LMHC from St. Jacques Consulting Group located in Bothell, Washington. 

Kevin presented a two-hour training session at the NUHSA meeting on Tuesday, December 11, 2018 at the Kenmore City Hall.

If you see a homeless person, try to be comfortable with that person and give a smile and a nod hello. You could be asked for money but a polite reply of “no” is just fine.

But if a situation is too uncomfortable or appears dangerous, it is ok to walk away or around the location, assures Kevin. Safety should always come first.

What we need to do is to find solutions for different living situations. That is not an easy thing to do, but something that just must be done. And we can’t do it quickly enough as the homeless population continues to grow across the country.

Come talk with and ask questions of a person who is currently unhoused on Tuesday, December 18, 2018 from 7:00-9:00pm to be held at the Lake Forest Park Citizen's Commission Open House at the Third Place Commons area of Town Center in Lake Forest Park. Mike Dee co-initiated and manages the LFP Citizen’s Commission.

Donna Hawkey
dhawkey@comcast.net

Correction: Date is December 18, Tuesday for Citizen's Commission meeting

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