John Graham is not a happy camper. He’s been experiencing homelessness for two years and has spent the last two months in a tent in Woodland Park. Before that, he was in Tacoma, where he says homeless services were basically nonexistent.
“The cops literally run you out. They’ll beat your ass,” he said. According to John, moving to Woodland hasn’t changed much, besides the beatings. The only city outreach workers he’s talked to, he said, have had nothing to say about getting inside, “Only about how we’re not supposed to be here and blah, blah, blah.”
John really doesn’t want to be there. While he obviously has community — he was hanging out and having a smoke with Kim Garcia, previously profiled in this column, and several other campers — he’s ready to go inside.
“If I had an offer I wouldn’t be here right now. I’ll take a tiny home, a motel. Fuck, I’ll go live in a fuckin’ shelter,” Graham said. While he doesn’t think a congregate shelter would work, he said he’d absolutely be open to a shelter situation with a single roommate.
He tried congregate shelter once, after being released from the hospital, but he couldn’t do it. He’s survived sepsis, which put him in a coma, and is a current cancer patient. While describing his ailments, he lifts his shirt to reveal two brutal scars; one is large and runs sideways across his gut, the other is a tightly puckered, burgundy-colored one over his sternum. He says he had a 109-pound tumor removed. Because of his issues, he said, he gets disability payments, but that hasn’t helped him find housing.
“If you don’t make three times your motherfucking [rent], you ain’t getting an apartment. If you don’t have perfect credit, you’re fucked,” Graham said, adding, “The reason I’m on the street is because they don’t try to help anybody.”
Drugs are an issue for him, he admitted, but not one that would prevent him from leaving the park.
“I smoke my weed, I go fishin’. I’m not a bad person,” he joked, while admitting that he struggles with fentanyl.
“Give me methadone and some help I’ll be out of here, I’m tired of these fucking blues,” he said, referencing the slang term for fentanyl pills.
For now, Woodland Park isn’t the worst. Graham’s from the area. His grandma lived just a few miles north, so it feels like home. He even remembers when Green Lake still had hydroplane races.
But, ultimately, he doesn’t feel like he’s going to get the help he needs.
“All I do is want help. Nobody out here is trying to help anybody ever. They’re full of shit. There’s no fucking teams coming out here to help us ever, bro. It’s 100 percent bullshit,” John said. “The only time they ever have that shit is for the news cameras. And you know what those people do? They tell you they’re going to do something and they never do it.”
One of the big problems, he said, was that everyone is less empathetic than they used to be. When he was growing up, he said, if people saw someone sleeping out, “there’d be eight people trying to help them.”
Now, not so much. As he put it: “Ain’t nobody trying to help no homeless person.”
Tobias Coughlin-Bogue is the associate editor of Real Change.
Read more of the May 4-10, 2022 issue.