I could write about Deb White's 20-plus years as a mapmaker; I could tell you about her being in Dallas on the day JFK was assassinated; I could write about her year in a kibbutz near the Golan Heights, and much, much more. I couldn't do it all justice, though, so I'll just tell you the story of Deb White's boat.
A few years ago, living in Las Vegas with a cousin, White got sick. Nothing major, but her job selling bottled water at the Treasure Island casino wasn't going to cover medical bills and a place to stay. So White paid the doctor.
What she soon found was that being homeless in Vegas is every bit as horrible as it sounds -- after a few months, the Las Vegas PD had confiscated White's possessions, including her medication.
"I became delirious," she remembers. "Being homeless... you have no past and no future. You're living in this present where people are pushing you around."
She arrived in Seattle "scared of everybody and everything," but began to rebuild. At Real Change, in addition to selling a lot of papers, White has led the charge on advocacy: it's not uncommon to see Deb at the office after everyone else has gone home, making picket signs and handbills.
She has a full-time job, she's founded a chapter of the Progressive Democrats, and regularly gives the City Council hell. But White has also been designing and saving for her own home.
"I have the materials, now I just need to build it," says White of the 16-foot skiff she plans to live in. As our interview draws to a close, I pictured White in her little boat, unmoored, in the great blue sea -- it sounded about right.
“Have hope,” she tells her customers. “Things are getting better nationwide. A lot of grassroots movements are growing.”
—Story and photo by JP Gritton