"We're behind, frankly," says Mike Garcia of the city's ten year plan to end homelessness. He has the credentials to kvetch: Garcia is Real Change's Vendor of the Year, he's a vendor representative, and he holds a seat on the Committee to End Homelessness.
When I ask him about the city budget, Garcia says, "A lot of that money went toward 'emergency planning' -- but we've got a disaster right now. There are 8,000 people homeless in Seattle every night."
Garcia is that rare breed of person that is both interested and interesting.
With calmness and clarity Garcia discusses homelessness in Seattle, George W. Bush, and Subcomandante Marcos.
And with that same calmness and clarity, Garcia discusses his life's peaks and troughs: in 1969, Garcia's stepfather piled his family into the car in the middle of the night and, when the car broke down at Lolo Pass, poured the vodka he'd been nursing into the radiator; a French foreign exchange student gave Garcia the trademark beret he's worn ever since; when he graduated high school, Garcia's grandfather sent him to Derry, Northern Ireland, to "see the motherland" (The way Ulster Catholics were treated, he remembers, "made me really mad. There were some great riots.").
What's most impressive about Garcia is that these stories -- stories that most people would boast about -- he relates with an honesty and humility that's really... well, cool.
When Garcia was arrested and imprisoned for possession with intent to distribute, he received vocational training as a wastewater treatment operator. But when he was released, Garcia found that his felony was too recent to land a job or sign a lease.
The rest is history: Garcia became homeless, started selling Real Change, and made up his mind to advocate for change.
Now, those institutional pressures that so many accept as "the way things are," Garcia is fighting against.