After jumping between homeless shelters and friends’ homes, Briar Rose Williams was looking for a temporary place to live for herself and her boyfriend.

With a baby on the way, she hoped to stay in a campsite in the Seattle suburbs.

So she bought a trailer in Mountlake Terrace that she found on Facebook for $1 on Tuesday. They planned on cleaning it out, so her godfather and boyfriend temporarily parked the trailer a couple of blocks from her grandmother’s home in West Seattle — coincidentally in front of the home of Seattle District 1 City Councilmember Lisa Herbold.

What followed was a sequence of events Wednesday that led to her newly purchased trailer getting vandalized and, she claims, people angrily confronting her and her family over the trailer’s presence.

How a trailer parked by coincidence in front of a Seattle councilmember’s house set off a political spectacle

On Tuesday night, a neighbor sent Herbold, who was out at a community meeting, a photo of the trailer. Also that night, activist Matt Watson posted a photo of the trailer on his Facebook page and on Twitter. He attributed the trailer’s presence in front of Herbold’s home to either activist Ari Hoffman, who had threatened similar action, or someone inspired by him.

When she saw the photo from her neighbor, Herbold said she immediately assumed Hoffman was responsible.

Advertising

Hoffman ran an unsuccessful campaign this year for the District 2 City Council seat and had threatened earlier this week to tow just such a vehicle to other council members’ homes, upset about the consistent presence of RVs around a Jewish cemetery where he’s a board member.

On Monday afternoon, he expanded those threats to the mayor, the entire council and other city officials while on Dori Monson’s radio show on KIRO-FM.

The Seattle Times’ Project Homeless is funded by BECU, The Bernier McCaw Foundation, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Campion Foundation, the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, Raikes Foundation, Schultz Family Foundation, Seattle Foundation, Seattle Mariners, Starbucks and the University of Washington. The Seattle Times maintains editorial control over Project Homeless content.

Speculation started to rise: Was this a coincidence or a political stunt?

Efforts to reach Hoffman during the day Wednesday were unsuccessful because he had turned off his phone, in observance of Yom Kippur. He later confirmed the trailer was not his.

But earlier in the day, The Seattle Times reached out to Monson to ask if he knew anything about the trailer.

He didn’t. But after being alerted by the Times, the Dori Monson Show Twitter account tweeted a video of someone — a self-professed fan of the show — spray-painting “Dori 4 Gov” on the side of the RV parked in front of Herbold’s home.

Later, television and radio news crews showed up. At least one reporter, from KIRO Radio, went into the trailer and started filming.

Advertising

Williams and her family returned to find the news crews and her new home covered in graffiti. The items inside the van belonged to the previous owner.

“I started to freak out,” Williams said. At one point, she had an altercation with someone at the scene who she said was insulting homeless people.

The family’s plan, according to Williams’ godfather, Robert Fredriksen, was to clean the trailer out and park it at an RV camping site. They didn’t intend to live on the street in Seattle; they were simply putting it there overnight, parking the trailer two blocks from Fredriksen’s mother’s West Seattle home, where they were staying.

“As far as I’m concerned it’s a hilarious coincidence that somebody’s threatened to do that exact same thing,” Fredriksen said. “That’s not what we were trying to do.”

Fredriksen has been functionally homeless for about a year, he says, after he got sick (Fredriksen said he is diabetic) and couldn’t work for the commercial cleaning business he owns. He’s been living with his mother off and on, but she’s not allowed to have them live there, according to Fredriksen.

Williams, who said she’s 10 weeks pregnant, ultimately wants to be independent. The vehicle is a transitional home for her and her boyfriend, a way to have a space for themselves and their baby.

More than 2,100 people were estimated to live in their vehicles in King County during this year’s one-night homeless count.

The couple eventually wants to buy land somewhere and build a house of their own.

Williams is still shaken by what transpired Wednesday.

“I’m still processing everything I just learned about us camping in front of a council member’s house,” she said.

Williams also has another headache to deal with: she said Seattle Parking Enforcement issued her a 72-hour warning to move the trailer.

Project Homeless interim editor Vianna Davila contributed to this report. 

Clarification: Seattle Parking Enforcement issued Briar Rose Williams a 72-hour warning. A previous version of the story said they issued her a parking ticket. 

Clarification: A KIRO Radio reporter went inside Williams’ trailer and filmed it. A previous version did not make  clear the reporter was from a radio station.