Rebecca Massey drove up from Oklahoma expecting to get a job, find a place and save up some money. She said she didn’t intend on being homeless.
“I know there’s some perception that people come to Seattle seeking all the resources that they give to homeless people. I didn’t come here anticipating receiving any of those services.”
Massey has an art degree and a dream of traveling around the country in a converted van selling her art. But her van was stolen.
“It spiraled down from there,” she said. “It got increasingly hopeless. I spent a lot of lonely nights asking myself what I’m going to do.”
Massey was living under the West Seattle Bridge in a group of unauthorized RV campers when the city swept them out earlier in May. She said she’s been swept – the term used when the city clears out a homeless encampment – four times in the nine months she has been in Seattle.
This experience of being swept is traumatic, she said. “You don’t really know where you’re going to go because there’s not a place to go.”
There are city-authorized sites around Seattle, including Camp Second Chance in Sodo, where Massey is now a resident. But she said some don’t want to live in these places because of the rules or perceived lack of freedom.
She’s making new friends, but misses the community she had, where people watched out for her and the group had communal meals.
“I just feel like I’ve left behind some people and I’ve let some people down,” Massey said. “I feel like I want to have a place and have my own interests, but I feel like I’m being selfish, too, because these other people aren’t getting their needs met.”
Massey said the city isn’t accomplishing anything by performing these because it’s the same groups of people being moved around the city. Instead, she said, there need to be more low-barrier options and services for homeless people.
“Until someone is homeless and in that situation, I guess they won’t understand. But it’s not just a matter of, oh well, they’re just lazy, or they’re not smart enough, or they made bad choices.
“That’s really unfair, I think, to reduce it to just ‘it’s their fault they’re homeless.’ It’s not farfetched for anybody to be homeless.”
Produced for the web by Kara McDermott.