Carmen and Robert Patterson have lived in the Jungle, a homeless encampment in Seattle, on and off since 2011. They and several others who live in the Jungle shared photos, stories and text messages with us. 
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Carmen and Robert Patterson have lived in the Jungle, a homeless encampment in Seattle, on and off since 2011. They and several others who live in the Jungle shared photos, stories and text messages with us.
Credit: Courtesy of Robert Patterson

Heartbreaking dispatches from inside the Jungle

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.

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.

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.”

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?

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.

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

Sweezey continued:

She also lit candles in her tent for light.

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

Yum.

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

And photos of her dog.