Saturday, July 12, 2014

Letter to the Homeless in Smokey Point, Washington

I spent one evening July of 2014 shooting the ugliness around a four block long, two block wide strip around the intersection of 172 and Smokey Point Blvd. This is our town. This is our neighborhood. There are homeless addicts living in our bushes and having sex in our sacred woodland paths through the airport trail. Feces, urine, graffiti, needles, discarded clothing, filth, garbage, gloves and humans hunker down on the sidewalks with blue tarps destroying the landscaping. Panhandlers wait and beg at every corner, even corners that put them or generous souls handing them money in danger. Homeless people munch their way through Safeway and when they are full, leave with a cart to push their belongings into their favorite bushes.

Old RV's - eyesores- and one old Suburban packed to the brim to block the windows - have stayed parked in the Walmart parking lot for months on end. By the looks of it they are staying put. Easy HQ for deals? The Buzz Inn porch has a lair of extraordinary depth and stench. The occupant has been there rent free for some time it looks like.

I feel sick and full of despair. How do we clean up our neighborhood? If beauty does indeed save the world like Gregory Wolfe says, how can we transform our corner of the world, our town? Make it a lovely place to live again. I feel guilty and ashamed that I have no compassion. These are not the poor we'll always have with us. They are the addicted who are trapped by agony and lies.

I'm not writing this anonymously. Maybe some evildoer will come find me and take revenge? A couple may be hiding in my tool shed. Where there are drugs and graffiti there are gangs. And the rich lord's who prey and watch and devise strategies to let nothing get in the way of them and their money could send minions. I won't let myself be paranoid or schizophrenic.

But if they come, I hope they don't get me with my back turned, because before they do anything rash, I'll beg them to follow me out to the garden room and let me serve them tea. I want the bees and butterflies to minister to them. I want the flowers to sing to them. I want the robins to bathe unabashedly for them. And the squirrel, he's a real little beggar - maybe he will teach them how to do it with panache.

And me? I will prepare a bucket full of warm water and wash their dirty, bruised feet, and let them remember what it feels like. Maybe they'd crave it again?  Clean feet stretching under clean sheets is so nice.

I think of the old urban legend of the father who put an ad in the paper saying, Pedro, all is forgiven, please come home. Meet me here at this address - I'll gladly pick you up. When the father got to the meeting place there were hundreds of young men weeping, all hoping it was their father. We have such a one. Come home. Go home. Be home. Plant a garden of your own, my child. Or write a poem.