Uncertain of how to ask this, but here goes …

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  • #817111

    phoenix
    Participant

    I’ve seen a woman pushing a shopping cart that’s full of different types of bags. There have been a handful of times where I’m walking my dog at night and I see her sitting on a bench or camped out in a corner with her cart. My boys have asked me if she’s homeless and my response is, “I don’t know.”

    Once we were leaving Zatz with some bagels and she was sitting on one of the outside benches. My son asked if he could give her some of the bagels. At first, I was hesitant because she wasn’t asking for money or food, and I didn’t want to assume she wanted anything from anyone. I told him that he could politely ask her. He did, and she thanked him.

    When I see her my first inclination is to say hi and then ask if she needs any money or food. I’ve never seen her ask for anything so I don’t want to assume she wants or even needs something.

    A couple of weeks ago, my boys and I saw her pushing the cart, stopping it, and then walking back to get the rest of the bags that didn’t fit on the cart, and then repeating that over and over. My youngest asked if we should stop and ask if she’d like any help. Again, I hesitated because I wasn’t sure what to do.

    Now, when we walk the dog I keep a few dollars on me in case we see her, but I’m not sure I’d even ask her if she’d like the money because she’s not asking for anything and I don’t want to insult her.

    I’d appreciate hearing people’s thoughts on this. Thank you.

    #823238

    pattilea
    Participant

    I have also seen her over the past several months. Sitting on the steps at St Johns Church, and at Hiawatha. We just don’t normally see this in West Seattle, she does appear to have a bunch of stuff. She has never asked anything from us, but we say hello, and smile as we walk past. I have been curious of where she sleeps, but no one asks where I sleep, so wasn’t sure if its my business to ask.

    #823239

    Gina
    Participant

    She often sleeps under the Lafayette school front entry overhang, or on the porch of St. John’s.

    #823240

    phoenix
    Participant

    Your thoughts on politely offering her money or food?

    #823241

    Barry2012
    Participant

    Phoenix,

    I don’t think there is any harm in asking if there is anything she needs. Just wanted to say that my first thought when reading this was that you have a wonderful son-showing compassion can be rare these days and sometimes hard to teach. Great job :)

    #823242

    miws
    Participant

    phoenix, Kudos to you and your boys for your concern of this woman. I’m especially impressed with how one (or both?) of them have taken some initiative in showing concern for, and wanting to help her.

    I think and offer of food or, even though McDonalds may not be the best choice for food, a gift card from there, are great ideas.

    If you are uncomfortable offering her cash directly, maybe slip some into a simple, attractive card that expresses simple, good wishes, either already printed on the card, and/or hand written by you and/or your boys, or maybe in a nice, hand written note.

    One of the simplest, and kindest things anyone can do is “Just Say Hello“.

    Here is the website, and Facebook Page of a great guy that has been helping Homeless folks for several years now. You and your boys might like to peruse some of the stories of the Homeless that have benefitted from Rex’s kindness:

    http://www.facinghomelessness.org/

    https://www.facebook.com/HomelessInSeattle?fref=ts

    Mike

    #823243

    Lisa
    Participant

    phoenix :) Her name is Mary Teresa. I actually posted a note similar to yours about a year ago, asking if anyone knew anything about her and got a reply somewhere along the lines of “if you really want to know, why don’t you just ask her” :/

    .

    I’ve been talking with her over the past several months, wave ‘Hello’ to each other several times a day… sometimes we share a Hug … because ‘everybody’ needs a hug, including me!

    .

    She will graciously accept a few dollars if you have it to offer but has never asked me for anything. Last week I noticed she was sitting in her sock feet (shoes off) a couple of days in a row and when I asked what was happening, she replied that her feet were very swollen and her shoes were worn through the bottom. On the weekend, I went to Value Village and bought her a couple of pairs of shoes. She was very thankful and I’m happy to see she’s wearing them.

    .

    It pains my heart to see her pushing her ever growing load on that cart. I’ve actually been wondering if I (we) could find a better solution for her. Of course… the Real Solution would be for her to have a ‘Home’ to go to… but realistically, I’d like to find her a better cart <3

    #823244

    miws
    Participant

    Kudos to you too, Lisa! :-)

    Mike

    #823245

    imelda
    Member

    phoenix, thanks for asking the question, I was wondering the same thing. I always say hello as I go by, but we don’t otherwise chat. I was wondering about a prepaid PCC card so she could get hot soup or something like that.

    #823246

    Lisa
    Participant

    I appreciate the comment Mike :) but seriously… do you think there is something that could be built/made… somehow, that could help her ease the burden of the way she has to store/move everything?

    .

    I’d be happy to talk to her about whether she’d be open to having something other than a shopping cart (I’d be surprised if she said “NO”). I’d also be more than happy to put my ‘time where my mouth ‘ is to make something happen.

    .

    She’s a really great person. I often see her knitting (she tells me it’s ‘for the orphans’ :) ) or doing small sewing jobs, mending her umbrellas and or clothes.

    .

    Imelda: I think you’d find she’d be very happy to chat with you :)

    #823247

    miws
    Participant

    I’ll have to give that some thought, Lisa.

    (I like this thread!) :-)

    Mike

    #823248

    JKB
    Participant

    Might be your son’s intro into a couple of real-world lessons: choosing to help people, and that things may not be as they appear. I don’t know the specific woman in this story, but for me the interesting lesson was that it really does cut both ways. Some people are worse than you expected, and also some are better.

    #823249

    LisaM
    Participant

    I too have seen and been concerned about this lady and glad to know her name. I say hello to her when I walk my dog and have thought to offer her money as well. I will watch this thread to see what I can do to help or contribute to any solutions for her.

    Lisa, I don’t know if you are comfortable sharing more information on her “story” but if you are, I have wondered about it..

    Thanks all!

    #823250

    Lisa
    Participant

    Mike, You… if any among us would have the best insight into her life. Do you think there could be a ‘better solution’ for her current situation? I worry that if she had something more accomodating for storing/living/sleeping… she would either fall under some bureaucratic crap or be at the hands of others who would want to take (and use) what she has. The latter seems unlikely in WS.

    .

    I’m not sure if she wants/is willing to accept an outpouring/major change. I’ve spoken to volunteers @ the WS Senior Center about her and was given the impression that although they’ve tried… that she doesn’t want ‘help’. If this is the case… I’d prefer to learn this first hand.

    .

    I really think that the entire concept that she is so unique to our community… Speaks Volumes about Our time and Place and Responsibility. Maybe if we come together now… we could keep this situation a rarity. Not in the hope of preventing the ‘smudge’ on the purity of WSeattle… but to show that as a Community… we can come together to prevent this from becoming something all too common… that we turn a blind eye to…

    #823251

    Lisa
    Participant

    I’ve also spoken to the local ‘beat cops’ about her and they are fully aware of who she is and where she spends her time. In conversation, it was expressed (in my interepretation) that as long as she doesn’t cause any trouble and keeps living as she has… the police have no issue with her :)

    #823252

    miws
    Participant

    Lisa, I think you are on the right track with your thoughts and actions regarding Mary Teresa.

    If she is resistant to major change, then she’d likely be overwhelmed by too many people trying to help change her situation too quickly, even with all of the good intentions.

    You were spot on in how you handled her shoe situation; noticing the fact she wasn’t wearing any, asking her about it, and then just going out and getting her some. I think if anyone that can regularly interact with her can just make mental notes of something it seems she might need, and then ask her, but don’t press if she declines to answer, or declines offered help.

    Building trust and developing a relationship that both Mary Teresa, and the concerned neighbor are both comfortable with, is probably the best way to get past any barriers MT may put up. Maybe folks that interact with her regularly could share somethings about themselves, their families, their jobs, at whatever level they are comfortable with. It doesn’t have to be specific; employer, kid(‘s) name(s), home addresses or specific blocks don’t need to be shared, but maybe just some basic stuff.

    As far as the cart; I’m guessing it’s an old grocery cart, as opposed to a collapsable, personal cart?

    I am not constructurally inclined, so can’t really come up with design specifics for building a new one, but think the concerns you have with doing so are something to be considered. The only thing I have to add to be considered is pretty obvious; ease of use.

    It would need to be lightweight enough, in itself, to be lifted over curbs with no ADA ramp, the wheels would have to be able to negotiate the bumps and cracks and other irregularities of sidewalk, and street crossing surfaces, and be able to go “off-road”, if she pushes it on any unpaved paths in Hiawatha, for example. My guess (unless she has some personal preference) is that the casters be set up like on most grocery store carts, where the front wheels are the only ones that rotate, to negotiate turns, as opposed to all four doing so, which might cause too much lateral travel, or weaving.

    Another thought regarding that; would she prefer the rotating wheels to be on the front, like on a standard grocery cart, or on the rear. I have used flatbed carts on jobs, that had the rear wheels only rotate, to haul stuff and found those easier to use than a similar cart with rotating front wheels. But then again, that may be a personal preference, and a totally different scenario on usage.

    For now, anyway, with the existing cart; is there some way you could see if something simple may make it easier for MT to push? Like maybe the wheels just need a couple shots of WD-40, to turn and rotate easier, or are they worn, or gummed up with stuff?

    One final thought, for now, maybe you, or one of the other neighbors could talk with the folks a St. John’s, about her?

    If she is regularly sleeping in their doorway, they must be aware of it, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they are, or have helped her (or tried to). Maybe work together with them to provide continued help for, and keep an eye on, Mary Teresa. I would think they’d welcome the help and thoughts of others, even outside of Church Staff, and their own Parishioners.

    Mike

    #823253

    Lisa
    Participant

    Mike, thank you so much for all of your time and thoughts regarding her cart. It is a shopping cart and I’m not sure of the state of repair or lack there of… but the BIG issue is that she has SO MUCH STUFF! :( It’s just recently gotten to the point that she has to carry a couple of large black garbage bags full about 50 feet … then catch up, pushing the (still) overloaded cart.

    Someone ‘must’ be helping her with meals as I often see her eating from a ‘tupperware’ type of container and drinking coffee? from a ‘to go/reusable’ coffee mug. Then again, somedays I see her, paper napkin tucked in under her chin, eating a whole sleeve of saltine crackers … she really is quite a character (and I say that with warmth in my heart).

    Lately, she’s been sleeping on California in front of what used to be ‘Little Knits’. In the morning she does her trek over to Hiawatha and spends most of the day right alongside of the main building. I swear, I’ve had to talk myself out of taking her home with me more than once…. But then what? I can’t even afford to look after myself :| and in realistic terms… I know that wouldn’t be a great plan.

    Maybe this conversation will be the start of ‘something’? to help her. I will go into St. John’s and see if anyone there has any insight and will be happy to share with you. I love that our community truly does care… <3

    #823254

    happywalker
    Participant

    She could just be a person with a mental challenge and her choice to live on the streets like that. We may not understand it in our minds because we don’t walk in her “shoes”. She sounds as happy as a clam with her life. Living her life the way she chooses and not harming anyone. Sounds life a good philosophy for any one of us…,anywhere.

    #823255

    phoenix
    Participant

    Lisa, thank you so much for responding to my question and telling me a bit about Mary Teresa. I will introduce myself next time I see her.

    Great idea Mike, about asking the staff at St. John’s if they have any ideas. I will call them this week.

    I believe whether or not a person (neighbor, friend, stranger) accepts someone’s offer of help, at least they know that someone else is concerned about them enough to ask.

    Lisa, you’ve inspired me to stop wasting precious time thinking about “what’s the right thing to do so I won’t hurt another person’s feelings,” but to just act and do something! If you’re ever interested in meeting for a walk or a cup of coffee/tea please let me know. You seem like a great neighbor and friend. All my best!

    #823256

    miws
    Participant

    phoenix, it *can* be kind of intimidating, for want of a better word, to know how to approach and interact with a Homeless person. I know that many years ago now, after a couple or so decades of working in, or otherwise being in, Downtown Seattle on pretty much a daily basis, I didn’t know what to do. Felt bad/guilty that I couldn’t give a quarter or two to everyone that might approach.

    I think I mostly acknowledged each one with a “Sorry”, at least, but if they didn’t actively ask, I was pretty much eyes straight ahead, but feeling guilty while doing so.

    Now, after my own journey through Homelessness a few years ago, I at least try to make eye contact with everyone, and say “Hi”.

    I so bad for folks in Mary Teresa’s situation. My own Homelessness was “easy” compared to hers, and others literally sleeping under bridges and doorways. Nickelsville cam back to West Seattle just at the right time for me.

    Between the relative safety and security of NV, the support some wonderful Donors from our Community (as well as other then longtime Donors), and the support of friends, I had some structure, and a much less level of physical and emotional stress, and a much less likely chance of falling through the cracks.

    Continuing on through Transitional Housing, and so many things just falling into place, I was able to get out of Homelessness much easier, and quicker, than many others that might be dealing with other issues such as mental illness, and/or addiction, or that have fought the struggle for so long, have simply given up Hope.

    Nobody can just snap their fingers and get everyone re-homed, but with the care and concern that you, Lisa, and others in our Community show to Homeless individuals, their struggle can be eased to some extent. Even if it’s just knowing that others care.

    Mike

    #823257

    JoB
    Participant

    i think the most important thing we can do to help individual homeless people is to acknowledge them … sometimes a smile is the best support system

    #823258

    phoenix
    Participant

    West Side Presbyterian Church @ 3601 California Ave SW, hosts a ‘Community Meal’ every other Saturday from 12:00-1:30pm. There is one this Saturday, 4/11. You can read more about it on their website at … wspc.org

    #823259

    Lisa
    Participant

    Phoenix: Thank you for sharing the information regarding the WSPChurch! I”ll make sure MT knows about it and I’ll actually contact them to see if they need a pair of hands :)

    #823260

    Lisa
    Participant

    A little update for anyone following along here. I spoke with MT (we decided that’s a very acceptable name for her today) and she was interested to hear there are other folks in WS that wonder about her and how she gets along. She smiled and said “well, they should stop and say ‘Hello’ ” :)

    I told her that some others had mentioned that she gave them a ‘different name’ when they asked. She smiled and said “well, I have two names. My given name is Marie-Terese (think Spanish pronunciation) but so many people got it wrong that I decided to just use Mary Teresa”.

    Phoenix, she is aware of the community meal @ the WSPChurch and says sometimes she goes but it’s more difficult when it’s raining. (no idea why this would be?)

    #823261

    miws
    Participant

    Thanks for the update, Lisa!

    Glad to hear that she welcomes “Hellos”. That makes me think she may also be receptive to accepting things from people, such as food, a few bucks, or maybe a gift card.

    I wonder if the rain issue might be that she tries to keep her possessions underneath something that helps protect from the rain, and she’s concerned that wheeling them to the Church will get them wet?

    Mike

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