In a My Take column, avid Seattle runner Rose Feliciano writes about her growing anxiety on her daily early-morning jogs past an all-too-common Seattle sight — a homeless encampment.
I run every day. Literally, every day. The last day I did not run was November 28, 2014. Recently, getting ready for my morning run at 5:15, I looked out the window and saw a person across the street. For a moment, I thought it was my neighbor who I run with some mornings. Then I realized it was not my neighbor. This person was naked. The person looked disoriented. I called the police.
I went on my run. But this run was different; this run I was frightened. To put this in perspective I know where I run is not 100 percent safe. I live near the West Seattle Bridge, I run under the bridge, along Spokane Street and Harbor Avenue. It is mostly industrial — abutting the steel plant, a rail yard and Terminal 5. I have seen homeless people before. I have had bike commuters warn me of suspicious people wandering around in the early morning hours. I have even been attacked by an owl. I know there is some risk.
I also know there have been people camping out underneath the West Seattle Bridge near my neighborhood. Last year I believe I had someone camping out in the green space behind my house (I hope they were just storing stuff). I know when I run by myself, I am always at some level of risk, whether I am running along the barren industrial area or in the populated neighborhoods of West Seattle.
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This run was different. This run I was worried about my personal safety. I was worried a person could harm me. I took a self-defense class at my local running store, so I sort of know what do to. But the reality is I am small. I am not quite 5-feet tall, and I weigh only about 100 pounds. This run I was worried my lucky streak of safety was running out.
The entire run I fretted about who could be in the bushes, waiting for someone like me. Or just having a bad morning and wanting to lash out at whomever went by. I worried about the people in the RVs along Harbor Avenue. Could someone come out and hurt me? I saw a person walking into the rail yard who was not a worker. Then I saw a female runner heading in my direction. I stopped to warn her. She said last week an altercation from an RV spilled out onto the running path. We lamented about not feeling safe.
What is worse is I am feeling guilty about not feeling safe. This town has made it so that if you express concern about encampments you are the bad guy. I am not the bad guy. I truly believe we need to help those who are less fortunate. We need to have compassion; we need to be willing to serve those in need. But what about me? Why can’t I just go for a run? This is my neighborhood. I live here. But now I am scared, and that makes me sad. I know I cannot solve the problem and, to be honest, right now I have no faith that our leaders are solving the problem either.
I simply want to feel safe. I simply want to go on a run. Every day.