On Dec. 8, a rainy Thursday morning, Richard was getting ready to move. He lives in an RV with Samantha, his gorgeous and amicable husky, and he’d been parked at the somewhat improbable sounding — but very real — intersection of 34th Avenue Northeast and 35th Avenue Northeast in Lake City. He wasn’t moving for fun, of course, but rather because of a sweep.
City cleanup workers, members of the city’s HOPE team and Seattle Police Department officers were on site conducting an RV removal. The day before, city workers had lined both sides of 35th Avenue Northeast with 24-hour no parking signs, letting vehicle residents there know it was time to go. While the HOPE team was offering spots in the True Hope Tiny House Village — located at the other side of the city, on Yesler Way — as well as shelter referrals, Richard said he wasn’t interested.
“I’m just going to move the RV and keep an eye out for some place to — you know? A place,” he said, meaning an apartment. Stop the Sweeps volunteers had just dropped off an oversized can of gas for him, and someone was circulating with a jump box, so he anticipated no problems getting going.
While it isn’t the first time Richard has had to fall back on his RV for shelter — “Thank God I never got rid of it last time I got out of it,” he said, “’Cause here I am.” — he was very recently both housed and employed.
“I’m not choosing to live this way at all,” he said.
A dispute with the mother of his daughter led to him leaving their apartment. He’d been the one to sort out that housing situation, Richard said, as he had better credit than his ex, but for now he’s just happy they’re still safe and housed.
“They’re good. That’s all that matters to me, as long as my daughter is taken care of,” he said.
While he’s out of a job, he is receiving workers’ comp benefits due to carpal tunnel surgery from his work as a tow truck driver.
“Kept working; work and work and work. It got to the point where it just felt like my elbows were just going to go ‘pop!’” he said, his finger describing a line from his elbows to his wrists to show where his swollen tendons had pinched his nerve. Pointing at his left hand and right hands, respectively, Richard said, “I had this one done like a month ago, so it’s still really sore up in here. This one’s still sore in here, too.”
Once he’s done recovering, he hopes to find an apartment and another job in the towing industry. He’s worked for Big D Towing, Jim’s Northgate Towing and Day & Nite Towing, but not, he said with a derisive snort, “stinkin’ Lincoln.” Ironically, that’s where he got his “home away from home” for $250 at auction.
Generally, he thinks that outreach needs to come with more available housing. While he argued that there are unhoused individuals who prefer to live on the street, he said that there are lots more who just want to get inside.
“We just need assistance, the ones that want to get offers,” he said.
Given that most of his job opportunities, not to mention his daughter, are all in the neighborhood, he doesn’t plan to leave the area. Or, given how it’s come in handy twice now, his RV. Unless, Richard said, he had a home he could depend on:
“If I had one, I’d go. I’d get rid of this and be living in a home right now.”
Read more of the Dec. 14-20, 2022 issue.