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New column explores homelessness causes, solutions | View from the Street
Editor’s note: Ian Woodson is formerly homeless. He will write this column once every three weeks to build awareness about homelessness in North Kitsap, its causes, and possible solutions. He will participate in an upcoming forum on homelessness in Kingston.
By IAN WOODSON
A growing number of young adults and teenagers in the North Kitsap area have experienced homelessness at one point or another. They’ve couch-surfed, posted a tent in the woods, lived in a shed or abandoned building.
I have been homeless before. The purpose of this column is to bring awareness to our area about homelessness in our community and break common stereotypes about how people become homeless.
I became homeless because of drug abuse. I come from a middle-class family. My father is a federal employee and my mum at the time worked as a nurse. My eldest sister was busy traveling the world and my other sister was starting a family with her husband. I was left to my own devices.
My father kept me on a $50 to $60 a week allowance for house chores. I had also been smoking weed for a few years. I started my own landscaping business to have money to maintain my habit and keep gas in my car. My main coworker one day asked if I had ever tried heroin; I was an experimental drug user at the time and decided, why not? After my first taste of heroin, I was off!
All of my income became devoted to heroin. I continued on this war path until one day I was swamped in homework that I had been neglecting. My father was not impressed with my neglected studies. He came into my room after I had just shot up and started shouting at me about not studying. I lost it at that point — shouting expletives, throwing whatever was at hand and eventually blacking out.
I came to and my hands were cut up, bleeding badly. I left my house to go to my weed dealer’s. My dealer was freaked out and wondered what had happened. I stayed there for two days and then set off into the woods to quit heroin. Heroin had destroyed every facet of my life. I spent two weeks in the Indianola woods puking, hallucinating, in the most agonizing pain I had ever experienced.
After that, I was found by old classmates I hadn’t seen for more than a year. I stayed with them for a couple of weeks. My friend’s parents were really supportive of me and understood what I had just been through. Quitting heroin was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I went on to continue couch surfing and dealing marijuana to support myself. I had an apartment for a while in Kingston until I left there and moved around the North Kitsap area. I continued on this path until July 2012 when I was arrested. It was the saving grace of my life. It took another year for me to get into drug court but I’ve been grateful ever since I got arrested.
I was reunited with my family. My parents forgave me for the craziness I put them through. I never thought I would become homeless, but getting back with my family has pulled me out of the pit I had put myself in. I learned a lot from my experiences out there, and I know life could have been a lot easier without the needle in my arm.
If you wish help homeless youth in our area, there will be a series of forums at Kingston Middle School about bringing The Coffee Oasis to Kingston.
Forums are scheduled on March 20, April 10 and May 1, at 6:30 p.m. Speakers include Kitsap County Commissioner Rob Gelder, Poulsbo Mayor Becky Erickson, county public health officer Dr. Scott Lindquist, Coffee Oasis executive director David Frederick, and youth who have been going to The Coffee Oasis.
These community forums are a project of Leadership Kitsap Class of 2014 and are sponsored by the Kingston Rotary Club, the Greater Kingston Kiwanis Club, and the Kitsap Community Foundation.
All forums will be catered by The Coffee Oasis with light hors d’oeuvres and refreshments. RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org. Additional information is available on Facebook.