Reflecting on How an Evolving City Impacts a Small Town

Normally, I would not mention any of this. I feel for the homeless in general. To take someone’s home, when that home is a van or car, is not an enjoyable act. I spent nearly two years living in an RV, and I have a fair degree of compassion. In the end, no one lost their home, but events of yesterday and today have me reflecting and thinking.

For the second time, yesterday, I reported an abandoned (presumably) van, which has not moved for at least five days. I am pretty sure, at least a few days ago, someone lives in it – engine idling late at night for heat and blackout curtains on the windows, now open. I believe the van has been there for a couple weeks, but am not entirely certain as I was out of town briefly last week. The van is tagged with a move-or-be-towed warning.

And, as I write this, the van has been driven away, not under tow.

I am fortunate in that I live in a relatively upscale neighborhood. A planned community, first envisioned about 30 years ago, which set standards positively around the region. Other communities followed suit. We are about 25 miles from Seattle, at the base of the Cascade foothills. There is a fair bit of forested minor foothills between the city and my community.

Homelessness in the region has been an issue since the dawn of civilization. In the large and protected wooded green spaces that surround some of the suburbs of western Washington, many of the homeless make encampments. Different than larger cities, these are isolated, often singular abodes. Tucked into the trees off of parks, trails, or rivers. The local officials offer help where accepted and basically manage the issue. Not all problems are easily solved, and the environment makes is easy for people to live in tents by a river in a forest and be left to their ways.

Recently more crime and homelessness has spread outward from Seattle. The neighboring town, Issaquah, the last large town before mine, has seen a spike in un-enforced shoplifting. In my own town, cars are burgled on a weekly basis, rarely a problem until this last year. More homeless now live in the wooded outskirts of town than before.

I have been living in this neighborhood for most of the last twenty years, seven years at my current home. In that time, until now, I only once reported an abandoned vehicle on my street. The area is relatively easy access from the interstate and local highways, and it is not surprising a stolen vehicle would be ditched someplace around here. It would be convenient for several reasons, one being it is the last population center before heading over mountain passes to eastern Washington.

What sparks me to mention this at all is yesterday afternoon, an hour after reporting the van, a young lady parked another van on my street then walked away. This new van is also configured more as a home than for commuting. Parking on the local streets is limited, and my street has several spaces available. It is normal for people to park in front of my house then walk several blocks to their home. The van itself caught my attention, not the act.

Obviously, my awareness is heightened. The increase in crime, the influx of more-than-typical numbers of the homeless, and regional un-enforced blatant theft is now commonplace. Towns and cities evolve and change. I live in a bedroom community which attracts young families. I can’t say I like how Seattle has changed over my lifetime. It is a city giving every appearance of striving hard to decay. That decay is seeping into the surrounding towns. Living outside the city, I have no voice in the city itself. It is changing the nature of the town I love.

Jerry Pournelle would often write, and remind us, “Despair is a sin. It is also futile. The remedy to all this is more action.” So instead, I wonder if it is time to leave or contemplate what actions can effectively be taken.