On Saturday January 22, We Heart Seattle came back to the park and several of our volunteers came to the park to monitor their actions. One of our volunteers wrote down this testimony, which shows that “We Heart Seattle people are unprepared to grant normal respect and rights to people living unhoused.”
While I was watching the We Heart Seattle people, I saw some park residents near a tent and decided to go over to talk to them. One person who was sitting outside. I said “Are you all ok? Are these [We Heart Seattle] people bothering you?” The person responded, “We’re all good. But can you go over and see that they don’t take the tents and stuff behind [A] and [B]’s tent?” And I said “[A] and [B]’s stuff?” And the person responded, “No, the ones they are really close to, over there near [A] and [B]’s tent.”
I walked towards the area in question and I saw a person whose name, I later learned, is Tim. Behind him, he was dragging what looked like a tent or part of a tent.
I asked him, “Do you have permission to take that?” He raised his voice right away and yelled, “This is trash!” I said, “Did the person who owns it give you permission to throw it away?” And he said, “It’s garbage. I don’t need permission to throw away garbage!”
I walked away toward another area. There were about four people in We Heart Seattle vests near two tents that didn’t seem to have anyone home. I walked up to them and asked, “Do you have permission to take this stuff?” Tim came up, very angry, and started shouting at me: “This is TRASH, we are cleaning!” and even shoved a few things in my face: a can and a mask. I then took out my phone and tried to make a video in case someone was asking about missing belongings later, but my phone didn’t work. I asked the We Heart Seattle person in front of me if they had asked for permission. That person said, “Yes, I have permission.” I asked, “From who? What are their names?” And the person responded, “I don’t have to answer your questions.”
This repeated itself a few times and I eventually walked away.
Tim followed me and took a bunch of pictures of me. I walked up to him and said “Would you like to have a conversation?” He responded with “We are cleaning up trash and helping out here! We aren’t doing anything wrong!” And I said “I just wanted to make sure that you had permission, since no one seemed to be home there.” He shouted, “IT IS GARBAGE!” He also proceeded to tell me how much volunteer work he does and how much he helps out all over the city. When he was finished I asked him if I could speak and try to get my point across. I reiterated that park residents had asked me to go check that they weren’t taking someone’s belongings, and that it didn’t look like anyone was home in the tent they were cleaning right outside of. (They were literally right next to the front of the tent, near a fire area; it was clearly part of someone’s area and not out in the middle of the park.) I mentioned that they could maybe come back another time when the residents were home to clean up that area with permission. Tim said, “It was trash.” I asked “How do you know it was trash if nobody was home?” He said, “You just keep talking in circles” and stomped off.
Shortly thereafter, I learned that some of the We Heart Seattle people I had spoken to were unhoused people that WHS was paying, including the person who told me he didn’t have to answer my questions, and that Tim was their boss. I did apologize to that person about holding my phone near their face, mentioning that I had not gotten a video of their face because my phone didn’t work. They replied “It’s fine, I still don’t think I was doing anything wrong.” Another one of them talked to me at length and told me that he thought Tim was really unprofessional and told me that he wanted me to text Andrea about what happened so that there would be a complaint about Tim coming from outside.
Another of the unhoused We Heart Seattle employees also told me that he really wanted to change WHS from the inside and make it less property focused (picking up litter) and more about supporting people. He seemed to really think he could affect change there.