Heartbreaking dispatches from inside the Jungle | KUOW News and Information

Heartbreaking dispatches from inside the Jungle

May 15, 2016

Robert Patterson lives in the Jungle, a homeless encampment. This is a transcript from his audio diary: 

Sunday is … Carmen and I try to make this our day that we don’t have to go anywhere. It’s a lazy day.


'Cause we don’t have to go to either of our clinics on Sundays. So we can just lay around and relax.

To tell you the truth – being homeless ain’t easy. We ain’t lazy. Not at all. We shower several times a week. We put on clean clothes every day because we do laundry. I mean, we’re on the methadone clinic, but we’ve been clean six years almost now.

You wouldn’t have liked me if you’d known me when I was on dope. I remember this one time, I was in my sister’s bedroom. And I knew she had some pills that would make me feel better. And what did I do? I took the bottle of pills, and I walked away and I didn’t give a shit.

Robert Patterson and his orange tabby Mamakitty. Patterson lives in the Jungle, a three-mile encampment where homeless people set up their tents.

I haven’t talked to my sister in seven years now. What is wrong with me? Damn.

You know, I don’t make the bad decisions that I used to. And one of the main reasons for that is Carmen, my wife. My beautiful wife. My best friend, my lover, I mean, if it wasn’t for her, I couldn’t imagine where I’d be right now. I mean, me and Carmen: We’re a good team.

Carmen and I had one of the biggest rows we ever had recently. And she finally just got me around to her way of thinking. You’re not the first person who’s come and wanted to hear our story. Lots of people have. And you know what’s happened? Nothing. We’re still here. Still live under a freeway.

Carmen Patterson and her orange tabby Mamakitty. Carmen and her husband Robert Patterson have lived on and off in the Jungle for about five years.

I’m not trying to ask you for anything specifically. It just seems like I just keep pounding my head on a wall. I’m not asking for much. A garage. Four walls, a roof. Electricity. I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know what the answer is. I really don’t. Maybe even in the Jungle, a dumpster. A dumpster so we could put our garbage in it.

They send out more outreach workers. And when they came out – it was ridiculous. They asked you if you would like to go to a shelter.

“No!” is the answer. If I wanted to go in a shelter, I would be in a shelter. You know what I want to say to that? “How about you go spend one night in a shelter.”

Robert Patterson prepares a duck for Easter ("very tasty," he reports). Patterson and his wife Carmen live in the Jungle.

I don’t know what people think they are, but they’re not cool. They don’t let you in until about 8 o’clock at night. But you have to get in line hours earlier. And they wake you up at 4:45, 5 in the morning, and they’re not nice about it.

“Bang, bang, bang, time to get up, go out and do stuff.”

It’s 5 in the morning. What the hell you supposed to do at 5 in the morning?

Robert Patterson, his daughter Cydnee, 24, and Carmen Patterson. Cydnee lives in Lake Forest Park. On a recent evening, the Pattersons returned late from doing laundry at their daughter's apartment.

I’m not bad, I’m not bad, I’m not bad. I’m not. I’ve made some mistakes. I’ve hurt people. But a man has still got to live. Still got to survive.

I think our bus is coming. And I hope you can hear most of this, because I know the traffic’s loud.

Man, I hope you can hear it.

Dying eggs for Easter in the Jungle, Seattle's most notorious homeless encampment.

Editor's note: Reporter Joshua McNichols placed letters outside tents in the Jungle. He asked for people to share their own photos inside the Jungle. One of the people who replied was a man named Steve, who sent this text message.  

A text message to reporter Joshua McNichols. McNichols had placed letters outside tents throughout the Jungle. This was one of the responses.

A woman named Cassidy Sweezey sent Joshua text messages about fire danger in the Jungle. She lives in the south Jungle near the Pattersons.

A text message from a woman named Cassidy who lives in the Jungle. Cassidy was texting with reporter Joshua McNichols.

 Sweezey continued: 

She also lit candles in her tent for light.   

  

Cassidy took a photo of the candle in her own tent to show how important candles are in the Jungle, Seattle's most notorious homeless encampment.
Credit Courtesy of Cassidy

Sweezey, like the Pattersons, created a semblance of normal life in the Jungle. Like the time she cooked burgers. 

Cassidy cooks burgers in the Jungle. She sent this photo by text message to reporter Joshua McNichols.
Credit Courtesy of Cassidy

Yum.  

The final product.
Credit Courtesy of Cassidy

And taking photos of pretty rainbows like everyone else in Seattle.  

  

View of a rainbow from the Jungle. Overhead is Interstate 5.
Credit Courtesy of Cassidy

And photos of her dog.  

  

Cassidy's dog, who lives with her in the Jungle. Many residents of the Jungle have cats and dogs. Having pets makes it almost impossible to find a shelter, although that's not the only reason they might not want to go into a shelter.
Credit Courtesy of Cassidy