Real Change Blog
This is an essay written by long-time Real Change vendor, August Mallory. It is reprinted with his permission.
On the Street: a Veteran’s View of America
By August H. Mallory
On this cold and chilly saturday morning and as I stand outside of the seattle union gospel mission to grab some breakfast I cannot help but notice the number of men and the few women who come to the mission to get a meal. I remember reading some history on rescue missions and shelters, they were once established for men dependent on alcohol and drugs, but as time went on the need for rescue missions became greater, the great depression of the 1930s brought on a different arena for rescue missions as the depression hit at the heart of america, people begin to feel the pinch of unemployment and poverty across america, and the need for rescue missions and other faith based shelters were in high demand, but even today the need for more shelters and shelter beds are in demand. with people losing jobs and losing their homes the need for shelters and shelter beds are even greater now.
As I wait to be called inside for breakfast, I see a great number of military veterans who rank highest amongst america’s homeless population, men and women who fought for this country have now found themselves let down by the very nation in which they gave their time and their lives for. as a U.S. Navy Veteran I keep asking myself why is it that we as vets go into the military to gain special skills to prepare us for outside employment can never find the jobs that match our skills, and even when we go to all of these trade schools and major universities we are still left standing in the cold. we served this country, and the best america can do is leave us standing in long lines waiting for a meal. this totally unfair. an absolute slap in the face. I keep asking myself, what did I do this for if I am going to be treated in such a manner. whatever happened to veterans preference when it came to employment.
For some strange reason that is a thing of the past, however I would like to thank President Obama for speaking out on the behalf of veterans, President Obama never served in the military so he really doesn’t know the struggles that veterans are going through, but he does know what the struggles of being an african american is, and as an african american the struggle for equality still exist in america.
People of color do rank highest amongst the nations poor and homeless. I suppose I should be greatful though, when I look at other countries and what they are going through. I guess living in america isn’t so bad.
This is Part 1 of a story written by long-time Real Change vendor, August Mallory. It is reprinted with his permission.
Marvin Hammerman Mystery, Part 1
By August H. Mallory
As a chilly windy, and rainy day hovers over the seattle king county area, police have been called to the pioneer square area in downtown seattle, the body of a homeless man has been discovered, according to his ID his name is Roy Johnson 53 years of age, people are gathered around to view the body from a short distance,... the killer is amongst those who are watching, it looks as the Roy Johnson was striken several times with a blunt object to his head, his ID states that he is from Madison Wisconsin, and he has a shelter ID that states he is staying at a local shelter in downtown, as the crowd mingles around to see the body, the killer paces back and forth trying to figure out his next move. Detective John Brennan with the SPD major crime task force. contacts the seattle union gospel mission’s executive director to tell him the terrible news, meanwhile the killer decides to leave the scene, and make his way north to the seattle space needle, RRRRRIIIIIIIINNNNGG’ seattle union gospel mission may I help you. yes I am Detective John Brennan Seattle Police Department, may I speak with your Director please, please standby I will transfer you, this is Danny Garrett’ Mr Garrett I’m Detective John Brennan I am afraid I have some bad news for you. as the news of Roy Johnson’s murder given to Danny Garrett’ garrett is sickened by what he is hearing,
Garrett must now contact the next of kin to tell them the horrifying news,
meanwhile the killer is roaming about the streets of seattle in his crazed mental state he stops and yells at oncoming traffic and then runs down various streets and alleyways, back at the union gospel mission, Danny Garrett contacts the legal office at the mission, they give him the name of Marvin Hammerman a prosecuting attorney who investigates crimes against homeless people.
End of part 1
Coming up in part 2, Hammerman join forces with Private Investigator Russell Jamison and they go undercover to flush out the killer of Roy Johnson.
Looking for a quick explanation for our current economic mess? But wait, you’ve only got five minutes? Oh, and you’d like a little something to dance to at the same time? Look no further. Musician Tay Zonday has put together a song breaking down our broken economy over a pretty catchy synthesizer-driven jam in a track called “Mama Economy.”
Think you can do a better job at balancing the state budget than the governor or legislature? The League of Education Voters has an online calculator that helps you visualize the $1.7 billion budget hole and how to fill it. A scale on one side shows apples representing state services tipping the scale to one side. You can either remove the apples by selecting programs to cut or add dollars by approving new revenue sources.
Click here to try it out.
Here’s one scenario you can try out: Skip everything else and click the option close to the bottom of the list titled “Increase tax for high earners.”
The following the the poem of 2011 Vendor of the Year, Cat Condeff. It is featured in the paper this week. Real Change first ran this 15 years ago, and it is worth revisiting!
Did You Hear That?
I’ll never forget it.
I was surrounded by cement.
And I burst out
With a pent-up
It echoed off the walls
So full of anguish
Reggie’s Corner Rap-Summertime
The 470 Real Change supporters at our October 4th Breakfast gave a standing ovation this morning to the event’s closing speech, delivered by Real Change Director Timothy Harris. The 2011 Breakfast raised a record-breaking $102,165 to support our work.
Every year, when I stand up here, and look out upon this amazing community of supporters, I feel a bit overwhelmed. By the depth and breadth of our support, by the importance of what we do, and by the difference that we make.
These are very hard times, and what we do is so essential. Just a few weeks ago I asked at a vendor meeting who hadn’t worked a steady job for three years or more. More than half the room raised their hands.
We create the opportunity for our vendors to be valued, to be proud of what they do. There are people in their lives, lots of people, who affirm who they are. Who care that they exist.
That matters. It matters a lot.
A few weeks ago, I went to a memorial at Seward Park PCC. The Leaves of Remembrance Project was cementing an engraved bronze leaf onto the sidewalk that read “Robert Hansen, 1951-2010.”
I wonder how many people in this room knew Robert?
Robert had been a vendor since 1995. He loved people and people loved him back
And when he unexpectedly died, our community’s sense of loss took us all by surprise
So sixteen months later, there I was, standing with forty other people outside the Seward Park PCC on a Sunday morning, remembering this man that had so touched our lives.
There were two ministers. There were his friends from SHARE/WHEEL and his friends from Real Change. There were his friends from PCC and his friends from downtown. The City Attorney was there, and two City Councilors, who also live in Seward Park and shop at that PCC.
There wasn’t a person there to whom Robert, more than a year later, was not present.
This, this thing called Real Change, and the community that we create of it, is a tremendous gift.
We live in very mean times, and sometimes, it feels like we’re supposed to just get over it, and accept homelessness, and the human degradation that comes with it, as an unsurprising fact of life.
Last year, I’m not sure, I can’t keep up, the State Legislature changed the name of General Assistance
This essay was written by 2011 Vendor of the Year Cat Condeff, who attended the August 30th Blessing of the Totem and John T. Williams Memorial.
The weather couldn’t have been more perfect. The forecast for the day had been for gloomy, old clouds, but the universe and the heavens had other plans, plans of their own. There were no clouds obstructing the view of the sky, and as I have no doubt that John-John (my nickname for John T.) could look down on all of us just as easily as we could look upward toward him.
If I had to pick just one word to describe the ceremony, it would be “somber.” Sure, there was the celebratory regalia, as Natives from as far away as Alaska came to this event, as well as folks dressed in their finest Indian clothing, as well as people dressed in just plain ordinary garb that you see everyday folks and tourists alike wear all the time. I was about the only one that I saw who was wearing black. I thought of The Women In Black as I got dressed that day, as I do every time I wear my black velvet dress. I even wear black underwear as my own small, yet significant way of showing my solidarity with them. Perhaps the most impressive individual there—to me, anyway—was the tribal dancer, who wore a massive array of eagle feathers and bands of bells on his wrists, arms and ankles. There was one woman who had a top on the said “police” in large block letters, but it wasn’t a typical Seattle Police Officer uniform, and I don’t know as to what capacity it was that she was there, but the presence of uniformed city servants in blue were noticeably ABSENT. Perhaps it was just as well. The mayor showed up about 1/3—1/2 of the way through, but didn’t speak. KOMO news was there, and photographers aplenty.
Pier 57 was absolutely packed with people, mostly standing room only. The chairs that were available were occupied by the elders, mostly—as it should be, and in keeping with the Native American tradition that calls for the utmost respect of those who have come before—and some were occupied by Natives who were visiting from out of state, some of them women with children in their arms. The area above the Pier 57 setting was filled with onlookers—two or more deep, depending.
The ceremony itself lasted about ten minutes. Most of what went before was honoring John-John’s memory and several different tribal leaders giving speeches about whatever they thought was appropriate for the occasion. There was no “Birk bashing.” There was no mention of how unfairly John T. Williams life was cut short at the hands of a trigger-happy pig. Just that he had had a hand in the making of the Totems posthumously because the design of the kingfisher was his, and was used especially to honor his life—as well as his father’s and grandfather and also his living survivor-brother Rick. John-John’s other brother was there,but didn’t speak. Rick spoke about the making of the poles and how the money had been donated by (?) to pay for the raising and the maintenance of the two gorgeous totems. They lay quietly, side by side during all this, I don’t suppose minding too much the snapping of photos and all the attention. I’m pretty sure that it was sage that was lit, and after the speeches, and the drumming and the prayers were said, Rick and one or two others (i couldn’t see—), one of whom was an honored drummer, paced slowly around the two poles, chanting prayers and anointing them with the music of the drum and the burning incense.
There was a city councilman who spoke—I’d remember his name if you said it—and there was a raffle for the miniature replica totem pole as well as some turquoise jewelry and a few other handmade items—like a beautiful basket—The buy-in was $20.00 a ticket, but these sacred items were/are priceless.
After all this, it was made known that the ceremony itself was over, but that the mic would be open to anyone who wanted to share stories /or memories of the late Master Carver, determined by his own grandfather to be the best carver of the bunch. Part of me wanted to go up there and say something, but it was just too personal of a thing for me to go up and say how I knew him in front of alot of people I didn’t know, who were then starting to disband, and wouldn’t have been much of a captive audience at that point. They/we were throughout the ceremony, however.
I’m still not all that familiar with the camera that I was blessed with, but I did take a short movie during the drumming. The still shots were kinda disappointing, but I wasn’t gonna go barging around to get a better angle like some of the others with cameras with massive lenses apparently feel they have the right to. No offense.
The main sensation that encompassed me as I made my way up the Pier’s plank walkway was that we did The Master Carver, John T. Williams—John-John—proud. And I had the distinct and unmistakable feeling that he was watching everything, hearing everything, even smelling the sage, maybe…that he was with us and that he was grateful that we came together not only as a people—family, friends and onlookers—but that it was a serene event, devoid of hatred or malice or revengefull words. Absent of blame and shame. A sacred, holy blessing that occurred without any unwarranted incidents, that helped the Totems to rest quietly, until their big day in February, 2012, John T.‘s birthday—the 27th—I think—when they will be raised and set in their permanent place. Mary Alice—one who has been very devoted to this whole totem pole project, as well as to Rick Williams and other members of the family and the other carvers, etc.,—was there the next day and said that there was an unmistakable sense of the poles “sleeping.”
Like I said at the outset of this, the word to describe The Blessing of the Totem Poles was/is somber. Suitably, painfully so.
Submitted respectfully by
Catherine M. Condeff
“Cat” to some, including J.T.
Please join us this Sunday, September 18th at 2 pm to remember inspirational Real Change Vendor Robert Hansen as the Tree of Remembrance Project places a bronze leaf on the sidewalk of Seward Park PCC (5041 Wilson Ave. S.) to memorialize this extraordinary life. Below is a eulogy that was read at City Hall Plaza memorial event in 2010, and a link to a wonderful remembrance we published on the anniversary of his passing.
Robert would have loved this.
Seeing you here. In City Hall Plaza. Looking like a protest rally.
But we’re not here to protest. We’re here to celebrate our friend, Robert Hansen, and the things he stood for.
Robert was always there to support the various poor people’s issues Real Change fights for. He was driven in this, I think, not by any sophisticated analysis of urban poverty issues or belief that the world would actually one day become more just.
He was there because it was the right thing to do. Robert Hansen was a good man. An honest man, who was loyal to his friends and kind to everyone.
There are things that I know personally that Robert believed in.
Robert believed in both Ford and Chevy pick-up trucks, although he preferred Chevy’s. Robert believed in Econoline vans.
Robert believed in hot drip coffee and cigarettes.
Robert believed in the power of bad jokes to make people laugh.
Robert believed in work, and in making himself useful.
Robert believed in fairness, and that everyone should have a shot at a decent life. Robert saw the value in all of us.
And Robert believed that people are good.
I say that Robert believed in work.
He put in more hours than most people selling the paper, and would always be there for us to do what needed to be done.
He called Real Change from Swedish a few days before he died to apologize that he wouldn’t be there to help unload the new papers Wednesday morning, like he always was.
Not long ago, someone asked me what I though about those who “choose” to be homeless. Who make the calculation that being a wage slave sucks and drop out of regular work altogether.
I said that this struck me, for those who are forever consigned to the worst jobs at the worst pay when they can get them, as entirely rational.
I said that the bigger mystery for me, the bigger source of wonder and amazement, are those who, despite the fact that work doesn’t pay—that our social contract of an honest days work for an honest days pay has been long broken—continue on working, or at least trying to work.
Robert was one of those people.
I remember around six or seven years ago, when Robert thought his ship had finally come in.
He’d been working a lot of hours under the table at an auto junk yard. They liked him and saw that he was good with a wrench and knew his way around cars. I’d never seen him look better. He dropped a lot of weight and even got kind of buff.
They offered him a regular job. He was elated. Twelve bucks an hour. Vacation benefits. Health care. He said he’d still sell the paper sometimes, because he loved his customers, but he wouldn’t be around very much.
Then came the background check. There was a nine year-old felony, expunged from the record in one place but not another. They said sorry, deal’s off.
His desperate attempts to explain went nowhere. My phone call to vouch for him had no effect. My recommendation helped get lots of former interns into grad school, but it couldn’t get Robert his dream job at the junkyard.
The business was under no obligation to give Robert a chance, so they didn’t. They just hired someone else.
I think this was the only time I ever saw Robert in anything like despair, which, in itself, was kind of amazing.
No matter what was going on, whether he was losing a cheap apartment and living in his truck, or sick, or tired, Robert didn’t complain.
He was happy. Robert Hansen was a happy man. I think maybe he was born that way.
Robert never stopped believing in work. In the months before he died, he’d often show me the ID card he received for completing Washington State road flagger training. He was really proud of that. He thought that maybe that would be work a 58 year-old man could do.
The last time we talked about it, he’d pretty much figured out that his badge wasn’t going to get him a job. He was less disappointed this time, but part of him still hoped.
Robert never stopped hoping.
A few days ago, I was talking with one of Robert’s good friends about the extraordinary community response to Roberts death. The spontaneous memorial where he worked the Seward Park PCC. The full obituary in the Seattle Times. A column from Nicole Brodeur. The many expressions of condolence and grief we’ve received at Real Change.
She reminded me that our work is to love. She said that if we just love, the change we need to create will follow.
She said that this is why her Jesus means so much to her. That he loved, and he loved unconditionally. He had one commandment, to love one another, and that if we could do this, we’d create his kingdom here on earth.
I’ve never been able to accept my friends Jesus. That’s my issue. I certainly have nothing to say to the Jesus who condemns sin and worships material success. The Jesus of the powerful and the Jesus of the powerless and frustrated.
But I believe in the power of love, and I believe we are called especially to love those who aren’t always easy to love.
And I believe in what Robert Hansen believed in. I believe in people, and in caring for each other. And in taking the time to share a joke and a smile to let someone know that they mean something to you.
I picked the poem for the front of Robert’s memorial flyer. It’s a nice poem. It’s a nice thought. But I don’t know that I believe that either.
I’m probably not going to be thinking of Robert every time I feel the warmth of the sun on my skin. If he’s part of the Universal All, that’s great, but it won’t help me much when I stop to remember that he’s gone.
But I do think he’s with us. He’s in the memories of hundreds, if not thousands of people. He’s there with us on Wednesday mornings, when the new papers come in.
He is here, in the faces of all the people I know who knew and loved him.
Robert Hansen has inspired me, and reminded me again that universal, unconditional love isn’t some overwhelming burden of which only a few Saints are capable. It’s in the small, everyday acts of kindness. It’s in taking the time to smile at someone and say hello. It’s in knowing that everyone, EVERYONE, is worthy of human dignity and respect, and taking the risk of living that truth into your life.
Robert did that. And if Robert did that, so can we all.
Our 17th Annual breakfast is coming up soon, and we would love to see you there!
Our program this year includes:
Souls in the Hands of a Tender God: Stories of the Search for Home and Healing on the Streets.
* Keynote Speaker Rev. Craig Rennebohm, Chaplain with the Mental Health Chaplaincy and author of
* Real Change’s 2011 Vendors of the Year, Catherine Condeff and Kenneth Chow, who will be honored for their work and will share their Real Change stories.
* Presentation of Real Change’s annual Change Agent Award.
* Hosted by Rosette Royale, Real Change’s Assistant Editor.
When and where?
Tuesday October 4, 2011
Fisher Pavilion at Seattle Center
7:30am- Check-in and Networking