On a walk to a game at CenturyLink, or strolling to the Uwajimaya specialty supermarket in the Chinatown-International District, you might see these guys; you know, homeless guys.
Their sometimes-leathered faces show the signs of a tough life; maybe they’ve got a backpack that’s filled with all their possessions.
Some of these men stay at 811 Maynard Ave. S., right in that neighborhood. The three-story building is the Salvation Army’s William Booth Center, kitty-corner from a BMW Seattle dealership. It accommodates 175 men and provides nearly 64,000 bed nights a year.
These are stories of three men, and how they ended up at the shelter.
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The Salvation Army is one of 12 charities supported by The Seattle Times Fund For The Needy campaign.
At the shelter, clients get a clean bunk bed. They get three squares a day, with, for example, a typical breakfast of ham, eggs, Tater Tots, cold cereal, oatmeal, coffee, milk and juice.
They get a safe setting. They get counseling and help with applying for benefits, especially in dealing with the VA, as many of the men are veterans. They’re expected to do something “meaningful” for 35 hours a week, whether looking for a job or getting training.
Drugs and booze aren’t allowed.
“Our perspective in The Salvation Army is that there are moments in time where the most downtrodden, the most hopeless, the most pain-filled person is ready for a hand to help them back up,” says Capt. Dana Libby, who was a cop for 20 years in Fairfax County, Va., and is now director of the center.
“Sometimes we see amazing results very quickly, once a person is physically cleaned up, begins to eat regular meals, sleeps without fear and receives the medical care they need.”
Stephen Bloch, 38
Bloch arrived in Seattle by way of Portland, and previously, San Francisco.
He says he suffers from depression that sometimes overwhelms him.
In late August, having taken a bus to Vancouver, he says he ended up sleeping in the conference room of a church.
“I got kicked out. I was kind of depressed, actually, quite depressed. I was going to jump in front of a truck. I have no money, the military [messed] up my life, I lost faith in everything,” he says.
The military service he was referring to were the two years he spent in the Navy, beginning in 2001.
He received an honorable discharge, according to the paperwork that Bloch carries, with the reason given as “personality disorder.”
“Claustrophobia, exhaustion, alcoholism, feelings of uselessness,” says Bloch. He’s an eloquent, intelligent man.
His sister, Adrienne Bloch of Oakland, Ca., says, “I don’t know what to say. He’s tried very hard. He’s had some pretty bad luck. He’s very talented, but he definitely has depression that makes it difficult for him to continue. He comes out of it a little bit, then he’s submerged again.”
He says he’s applied for 50 jobs in Seattle and had no takers.
“You know people who say that life is what you make it? The only people who have that luxury are rich people,” he says.
Then Bloch perks up.
“I’d like to go back to school and get a bachelor’s in architecture,” he says.
At the shelter, he can begin sorting it all out.
“They’re respectful. They speak to us, ask if things are OK. The food is good,” says Bloch.
Jesse Malott, 58
After a woman he met on Craigslist took $600 from his wallet during Thanksgiving weekend, really, his last few dollars, Malott considered suicide.
He admits he’s a naive guy, maybe not the smartest when it comes to women, maybe when it comes to life in general.
Malott gets a monthly $1,038 check from the VA as a disability pension. He’s an ex-Marine who joined at age 17.
Malott has paperwork from a VA psychiatrist for treatment of “occupational homelessness.”
The psychiatrist quotes Malott saying he has these strengths:
“I never lied or stoled, that’s caused people to like me and they can trust me.
“I am good at plumbing, handyman work. I have worked in apartments for 10 years.”
The $1,038 check was OK for renting a $500 room and having some cash left over.
Lonely, he had begun corresponding with the Craigslist woman.
“It wasn’t a sexual relationship,” he says.
He says the woman would pick him up and they’d go out for breakfast or dinner.
Then, says Malott, the woman suggested he move in with her and her mother in their four-bedroom home.
The move was to take place over that holiday weekend.
Malott checked into an Auburn motel, actually did have Thanksgiving dinner with the woman, and went back to the motel to be picked in the morning, he says.
Malott says the woman arrived as scheduled. He went to take a shower and she waited.
When he came out, she was gone, and so was the money in his wallet. He had $80 left, which he’d hid in his shoe — “something you learn in the military.”
Despondent and suicidal, Malott says he told his story to a group of homeless guys renting a nearby room.
One of the guys told him that if he really wanted to kill himself, to go buy three bottles of NyQuil, drink them all at once, fall asleep on nearby train tracks and get run over.
He did buy the NyQuil, but he couldn’t go through with it.
The next morning, he called the VA, which told him to get to its hospital right away.
Now discharged, Malott wants to get back to Savannah, Ga., where he has a buddy.
Meanwhile, until his next disability check arrives, he has a home at the Salvation Army shelter, from where he can go to the VA for psychiatric help and to see a social worker.
“If I wasn’t here, I’d be walking back to Georgia,” Malott says. “I know I’m safe here. Good people, good showers.”
Like Bloch, Malott also uses a term to describe how the shelter treats the homeless: “Respect.”
“I don’t feel sorry for myself,” he says. “God is gonna take care of me.”
James T. Washington, 54
Washington was released from the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla on Nov. 5, with $160.
He ended up in bed 64 at the men’s shelter.
“I appreciate it from the bottom of my heart,” he says about the shelter. “It was cold out there. Without them, I’d be freezing.”
Washington figures he’s spent half of his life in jail.
No violent crimes, just a long rap sheet mostly for auto theft and burglary.
Court records show Washington had been at the King County Jail 42 times and had 41 warrants issued from 1986 to 2006.
“Drinkin’ and druggin,’ ” says Washington.
Washington grew up at 33rd and Cherry in Seattle, and married Debra Jasmine Washington, 53, who lived on the same block and who now lives in Dallas.
She still loves him and plans to return to Seattle to be with her husband.
“How do you say it? We come from the same air,” she says about her husband.
They have a grown son, Marshall Washington, who also lives in Dallas, and four grandkids. The son also wants to see his dad.
Says Jasmine, the name his wife uses, “When he’s sober, he’s a really good person. He means well.”
Now Washington says that past life is over.
An Army vet, he’s getting counseling and medical help at the VA.
The shelter offers him the peace he needs, he says.
“I appreciate it from the bottom of my heart. Without them, I’d be out there freezing,” says Washington. “I want to flip the strip, it means changing everything from being bad to being good.
“I want my wife to come back up here. I want to see my son and grandkids. I want to make a foundation, live happily ever after, live for Thanksgiving, Christmas.”
Jasmine says that when she moves to Seattle, she’ll make sure her husband is off the drugs and booze.
“And I’m taking him to church, of course,” she says.
Erik Lacitis: 206-464-2237 or firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter @ErikLacitis