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Who is the man on the corner? | Letter to the Editor
I would like to introduce Dennis. You may have seen him on the corner of Avondale and Union Hill Road as he stands asking for your change. His eyes are cast downward as if there is something of interest behind his sign.
Most of us drive by, as I have many times, as we shop, drive our children to activities or simply commute home to warm houses and plentiful food.
Dennis is from Ireland but came to the United States as a teenager when his heroin-addicted mother could no longer care for him. He grew up in a Fort Worth, Texas, suburb, which you can hear in his gentle southern twang. After graduating from high school in North Richland, Texas, Dennis joined the army where he served for 15 years. He has been stationed in North Korea and has seen combat in Somalia, Panama and served in the Persian Gulf War.
After leaving the army, Dennis worked in Spokane for Spokane Housing Ventures finding housing for the homeless and setting them up with community services. Dennis was offered a job in Seattle three years ago and spent his savings to relocate but found the job offer had been bogus. As his savings depleted, he decided to leave his apartment and live on the streets. He has been doing so for two years.
When I asked Dennis what the hardest thing was about being homeless, he replied, “The loss of dignity. People shout obscenities at me and throw food and coins.” Dennis also cites the difficulty remaining dry and warm during winter in the northwest. Dennis lists his cell-phone number on his sign and claims that, as long as he has enough money on his phone account, it is on and he would like work. His dream is to have a full-time job and a place to live. For now, Dennis chooses this corner of Redmond because he can use the fax and copy machines at Fred Meyer to find work.
I asked Dennis what he has learned about himself during his time on the streets. He told me that he learned what it means to be strong and resourceful. He claimed that dodging bullets in combat is nothing compared to fending for your every need on the cold, wet, angry streets. As I left Dennis, I wondered how we can accept the sacrifice of years of military service from such a gentle man without some accommodations for our veterans upon their return.
If you see Dennis, please say hello for me. Give him money if you can spare it but a smile is easy and conveys the message, “I see you. I can grant you the dignity of a good wish, one human being to another.” As a fellow citizen of Redmond, I would be so proud to hear about our collective kindness.
Catherine Johnson, Redmond