Editor’s Note: The Reporter spoke with these two homeless men on the condition that we would not use their last names. This is the first in a Reporter series on homelessness in King County.
Kyle and Lyle may not have a house or apartment to live in, but they consider Bothell to be home. Lyle has been living outside in the area for three years, while Kyle has been doing the same for six years.
“There are a lot of good people here,” Lyle, who has been homeless for a total of eight years, said.
They ask passersby for money, and sometimes people are generous enough to get them a night in a hotel room, which Lyle said happens about once or twice a month.
Both of them have stayed in shelters before, too, but Kyle, who has been homeless off and on for nine years and is in his 30s, described those experiences as highly unpleasant, saying he was “sardined in there with people with lice, bedbugs and poor hygiene.”
“I would rather sleep in a tent than sleep in a shelter,” he added.
A lot of people treat Kyle, Lyle and other people living outside with contempt, yelling things such as “Get a job!” at them as they drive by. For Kyle, who has advanced skin cancer, and Lyle, who was injured while working, doing something as simple as getting a job is a hard task to accomplish.
They have been banned from several stores and restaurants, even when they have the money to pay for food and other items.
“Every day is a struggle in this homeless life,” Kyle said.
As close as Kyle and Lyle are, they’re not related. In fact, they met just six months ago.
“I saw him on the bus one day, and then I ran into him again and we started talking,” Lyle, who is in his 60s, said. “He’s a very intelligent young man.”
Kyle and Lyle were the first to admit that not all homeless people can be pleasant.
“Other homeless people can be unpredictable,” he said, adding that if a person is drunk in public or stealing, they should be arrested, but if they are minding their own business, they should be left alone. “People holding up signs with a smile on their face (like Lyle), you can trust them.”
“I don’t care if you give me a dollar or not, just stop by and ask me how I’m doing,” Lyle added. “Human compassion goes a long way.”
“The only way to get through to society is giving them information one-on-one,” Kyle said.
Lyle recounted a story of one man yelling “Get a job!” at him as he drove by, to which he responded, “I can’t, and I can explain why if you pull over.” The driver pulled over and engaged in a dialogue with Lyle, who told the driver his story. Lyle said the man apologized to him and said he would think twice before yelling at someone in that manner again.
Others might suggest trying to turn things around by saving as much money as possible, but when you add up the costs of housing, food, transportation and other necessities in the Puget Sound region, it can seem insurmountable to someone who doesn’t have enough money for lunch.
“It takes thousands of dollars for someone to get back on their feet,” Kyle said.
Several Community Resource Days have been scheduled for this year at Cascadia College, with the first on Jan. 27.
The afternoon sessions give people the opportunity to connect to organizations providing resources and services related to housing, food, healthcare and education.
The other dates are set for Feb. 24, March 31, April 28 and May 26. All of the events will take place from 2-4 p.m. in Cascadia’s Mobius Hall.
The event is coordinated by Cascadia, Bothell United Methodist Church, the City of Bothell, University of Washington Bothell, Care Day and Lakeside-Milam Recovery Centers. For more information or to sign up as a provider or volunteer, visit communityresourceday.com.