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Homeless: A view from the streets - Part II
Homelessness – it is a word, a tragedy and an issue that reflects the complex problems facing our region, state and nation.
Every school district, city and community has homeless adults and children living in a nearly invisible world of streets, parking lots, doorways, porches and cars.
Kent, as the sixth largest city in the state, has had a fast-growing population of homeless people since the Great Recession hit in 2008. There are government officials, religious and humanitarian groups trying to bring assistance to those who have fallen on tough times.
This story is the second of a three-part series on homelessness and living on the streets in and around Kent.
The Story of the Streets
Orville Tate is 51 years old and has been homeless since 2009. J.T., was homeless until about a year ago and asked that his real name not be used (he will be referred to as J.T.). He is 50 and has never been married.
Tate has been married three times and has a daughter and stepchildren. He worked as a warehouse and wastewater employee.
J.T. has both a bachelors and masters degrees and is an engineer. He spends many hours now, when not working, on the streets helping the homeless. He tells a very stark story of life on the streets for the homeless.
“There is nothing for them to do and boredom brings out problems,” J.T. said. “Especially with the amount of drinking and other things they do.”
J.T. believes there are more than 500 homeless men, women and youths in Kent, “living in cars, living in tents and living on the streets.”
He stated many of the homeless congregate at the King County library, both inside and outside.
“There is no objective in life, J.T. said. “And with all the kids, meaning kids just out of high school, one of the biggest problems are these wanna-be gangsters. They are really not gangsters, they’re just kids. Gangsters at least have an objective, they (the kids) don’t even have an objective,”
Many of the kids gather at the library and problems arise.
“You start seeing kids kicked out of library, the one place they should be… then you know there is a problem,” J.T. said.
According to J.T officers come to the library many afternoons just to try to keep the problems to a minimum. J.T. said he observed one evening when an officer broke up two fights in one evening near the library.
Many services are available to help the homeless adults and youths, but J.T believes some have quit trying because of alcohol, drug abuse and other problems.
“You only get what you put the effort out to go get,” J.T. said. Most don’t have a direction… some have lost their drive… you watch some of them drink and they just get nastier and nastier.”
J.T. believes some are being enabled “by handouts. They’ve gotten used to it.”
Tate agreed. “Things are out there. You just have put in a little effort to do it.”
Tate and J.T. said there are places in Kent to take free showers and get clean up. Many churches provide meals and other services.
Never Give Up
Tate’s life became much more difficult about two years ago when he become involved with a man he met in a shelter.
“The guy was running a check scam,” Tate said. “He said he had all this money. That’s how I lost my truck.”
The man found out Tate had a truck and asked him to take him to appointments. He offered to pay him.
The man eventually tied Tate into the check-writing scheme.
“The next thing I know I find out the whole thing was a scam,” Tate said.
He lost his truck and within a year there was warrant for his arrest on charges of identity theft and theft of funds.
“They were trying to pin this all on me,” Tate said. “It tarnished my reputation.”
Tate was charged with a felony, but J.T. helped him get the charge lowered to a misdemeanor theft.
“There was no intention on my part at all,” Tate said. “Being gullible, or whatever you want to call it. I was trying to help somebody.”
It’s been tough for Tate after the problems with the check scam, felony charges and the many trials of living on the street.
“Some days are harder than others,” he said. “Some days you feel like, ‘well should I give up or shouldn’t I?’ But if you give up you just fall in-between the cracks and it is even harder to get back up.”
Tate said he has some job prospects and he keeps going.
“I’ve exhausted all my benefits and everything,” Tate said.
Despite sending out numerous job applications, Tate said, “the calls are few and far between.”
J.T. said there are many on the streets who have given up.
“Most these guys need help,” J.T. said. “They need a warm place to go.”
He said many homeless drink so they don’t feel anything.
One man J.T. looks out for on a regular basis is often struggling to survive.
“I just brought him another blanket because I hadn’t seen him in a week,” J.T. said. “He was wrapped up and he was just shivering. He was in the skate park over by the park and ride. I asked him, “Why are you wrapped in these wet blankets and why are you in the streets?”
The man shares a place with another man, but doesn’t like him.
I do this every couple weeks,” J.T. said. “I find him in blankets and they’re soaking wet and he’s trying to stay warm. I say, ‘Come on. You’re smarter than this.’ But I just can’t leave him. He won’t take care of himself. I’m sure it’s the alcohol.”
Part three: Homeless kids, drugs and surviving the nights.