On the morning of Monday Feb. 3, Canada Jones strolled around the block of First Avenue South and South Washington Street in a suit we picked out together from the Real Change clothing closet. It was 6 a.m. on the day we were heading down to Olympia for Housing and Homelessness Advocacy Day (HHAD). This would be Evelyn and Canada’s first time at the state Capitol, both repping the 37th legislative district. We went down in the advocacy bus hosted by the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness with three more Real Change vendors.
As we arrived in Olympia, Canada expressed feeling scared and intimidated, pointing out the wave of white collars circling in and out of the Capitol and HHAD conference area. Still, resilient as always, he was able to find his groove by setting up shop and selling papers. This made him happy. “It was good to see other vendors who I don’t normally interact with,” Canada remarked. He gets the vibe that there’s a real sense of camaraderie between “us as Real Change people.”
We attended a rally together on the Capitol steps. The emcees, our own Lisa Sawyer included, did a great job hyping the crowd; representatives from many different legislative districts came out to address the crowd about each of their individual commitments to housing justice during this short session. However, among the speakers, we were disappointed not to see a 37th District rep.
“We came all the way down to see them, but it’s like they don’t see us,” Canada said, recalling the interactions, or lack thereof, with people in and outside the Capitol. At the time, this made him feel like “a ghost.” He later revealed that he had a fear of being at the Capitol that day — that someone would go up to him and say, “Hey, you’re here, but you’re not really here. You’re a secondary person, a homeless person, in a sea of people who know their way of life.”
Later in the day, we ended up getting a 15-minute meeting with Rep. Eric Pettigrew, D-37th District, himself, in a group of 20 other advocates. He met us out in a narrow hallway, people pushing themselves through us in the crowd. Anitra Freeman, board member of Real Change, started off by addressing Pettigrew about the need to have stronger tenant protections and commitments to building affordable housing in Seattle. This set off a stream of defensiveness from the representative, which Canada picked up on immediately. “Is he really saying that?” he turned to me to ask.
“It sounds to me like you’re not fighting for us,” Canada asserted to Pettigrew. “It sounds like [you’re] straddling the fence. That you won’t come out in support of anything that doesn’t also protect you.” At one point, Pettigrew turned his back on Canada, which made him fired up. “I didn’t want to be a troublemaker,” Canada said, “I just wanted to give my perspective.” Canada has been homeless on and off for much of his life.
“I just want to be a really good advocate for our community, and to represent the other homeless people of the 37th District who couldn’t get on that bus with us at 6 a.m.”
When I asked Canada for his reflections on the day, he told me that this whole experience was so impactful, to the point where he has committed to being more politically involved with the Advocacy Department at Real Change. I’ll be registering Canada to vote, as well as our other vendors, as we approach the August primaries.
“I’m definitely going to be up in there,” Canada said about the August elections. “It’s time to make a real change.”
At the end of our conversation, he declared to me that one day he might sit in one of the House of Representative seats and “be somebody.” I told him he’s already somebody.
For further comments or questions, Evelyn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, and Canada can be found selling Real Change at his post on 1st Ave. and Marion St.
Read the full Feb. 12-18 issue.
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