THE FIRST TIME I went out with Debbie and Damian Monda, the beginning of reporting “The Patron Saints of the Jungle,” we went to a camp under a bridge in Sodo on a rainy, freezing day in January. I didn’t know then that days later the encampment would be swept, and months later, toxic chemicals would be discovered there. It’s possible they’d been in the soil we walked on.

The city said it would reach out to the people who lived there, so my colleague Sydney Brownstone and I went to find those people and ask.

None of them — Jack Malone, Eric Pigott (known as “Whitey”), Kandy Wilson (who went by “Jypsy”) — made it into the final edit of “Patron Saints,” but tracking them down was a reminder for me that when I put down the notebook and publish the story, people’s lives in these encampments go on.

More than that, there’s an urge, when you’re observing a small moment in someone’s life, to exoticize their existence — a tendency to portray homeless people’s lives as bohemian and nomadic. I fell into this in “Patron Saints” with Zoë, a woman with dreadlocks who lives in a 40-foot school bus in Sodo, who used to tell people she was married to her bus.

This return was a reminder that many homeless human lives are cyclical, repetitive, even at times boring — just like housed humans. Whitey had been swept again and again this year, but when I met him, he was a few blocks away from the camp under the bridge where I’d met him in January. Jypsy went to Spokane, spent months hospitalized or homeless there, and is now back in Seattle.

Only Malone, who moved to Cleveland, Ohio, has left the streets, and is now stably housed and sober from methamphetamine.


In the course of reporting the toxic chemicals story, I called Erin Goodman, who runs Sodo’s business alliance and has directed much of her effort toward getting the city to do more about the cyclicality of the RV camps and how often they pop up in front of businesses.

“There’s one bus where, everywhere she goes, within two hours I start getting complaints,” Goodman said.

“Is that Zoë?” I asked.

“Of course it’s Zoë,” Goodman said. “Her bus is crawling with rats.”