Just when I thought I had seen enough homeless cases in Kent to fill a book, I ran into a homeless man named Jay while at the library. I first ran into Jay at a local church feed for homeless folks and what stunned me was the fact that Jay is in a wheelchair. Jay told me that thanks to budget cuts, he lost his housing and has been riding buses to the airport to take naps in the restrooms.
He recently got kicked out of the airport and now wanders from Tacoma to Seattle just trying to survive. Jay told me that just before I ran into him today, he was told by a shelter ran by Catholic Community Services that they couldn't take him because he was in a wheelchair and they didn't want to be responsible if anything happened to him.
One of the reasons people like Jay have to move around so much is because downtown Kent does not have a drop-in center, something local churches and community groups have been urging the city to build or at the very least, convert an abandoned building into a place where the homeless can get help.
My kids and I spent a few hours with Jay at his request because he has no one else to hang around with and he didn't want to be around drug addicts or alcoholics. We followed Jay to a place in front of a local church and watched him wait in line with other hungry folks waiting for a shuttle to take them to where a feed was being held.
To our amazement, the shuttle driver got out and told Jay she couldn't take him because the shuttle was full and didn't want to make two trips. Jay was very understanding as he also said that this shuttle didn't have the wheelchair lift in it and if paying for gas was a factor, then he could see why New Beginnings Christian Fellowship didn't want to make an extra trip to get him.
For Jay, homelessness is much harder than for non disabled folks. For one thing, he has to make sure shelters are wheelchair accessible and willing to take a man in one. As my kids and I stared at the shuttle as it drove off, we watched Jay wheel himself back towards the library.
The road was dark so I followed slowly behind in my van to make sure he made it to the sidewalks safely. As we drove through town, I noticed one homeless person already sleeping in another church's doorway. Not the best option of course but I mentioned it to Jay and let him decide whether or not to sit there for the night.
I'm hoping Jay will be able to find a caretaker soon so he can regain his housing before temperatures outside drop even lower but the reality is... I doubt it.