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UW Election Eye 2012

Campaign 2012 through the eyes of UW faculty and students

Topic: Homelessness

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June 11, 2012 at 6:30 AM

A Seattle woman named Melanie: young, pregnant, and homeless

Melanie, a homeless woman on a Seattle street corner on May 3, 2012. (Photo by Thor Tolo/UW Election Eye)

During election cycles, much attention is paid to the economy, and more specifically, job creation. UWEE talked to a homeless woman in Seattle about how she found herself on the street after her career faltered, which provides a sobering reminder of how easily it could happen to others.

SEATTLE — Melanie has bright eyes, a welcoming smile, and a wicked laugh. She is 27 years old, a jewelry artist, an expectant mother, and a self-proclaimed Republican. A former Whidbey Island resident, Melanie currently lives on the streets. She panhandles for a living, sleeping in doorways with her boyfriend and her dog Duke.

Five years ago, Melanie’s life was very different. She explained that she owned her own home and a successful jewelry business. Then the economy turned.  “The tourists started buying cheap key chains and stopped buying my jewelry,” she said.  Without reliable income, she found herself struggling to make ends meet. First, the career she built was lost. The house followed.

While standing on the corner of 45th and University Way, a stone’s throw from the University of Washington campus, Melanie and Duke hold court. Melanie displays a sign asking for money for marijuana and beer. She says that the sign is more for the amusement of those that pass her on the streets than anything else: local college kids will give to a cause when they readily agree with the sentiment. A young man stops and gives Melanie two cigarettes and she tucks one behind each ear. He laughs, then gives her two more to which she responds, “I only have two ears!” and pretends to give them to her dog. A college-aged young man hands Melanie ten bucks and tells her to buy Duke dog food, to which she smiles and says, “I will! Thanks!”

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