Rosemary Martin

Whidbey’s homeless deserve respect, dignity

Whidbey’s homeless deserve respect, dignity


At Helping Hand of South Whidbey, we see the homelessness and poverty on Whidbey Island in the first person, every day. We help those who are in an acute financial crisis. We also refer clients to the other resources available in the community. In the past few years we have been seeing more people who live outside and/or in their cars. Many of these are people are over 50. They are people who have had jobs, taken care of themselves and been independent for most of their lives. Often their lives have been disrupted by illness or injuries leading them to lose everything, including their dignity.

In our role as a referral source we support our clients in their search for shelter, food, and jobs. We are often the sounding board and ears who listen to their stories, help them make a plan and assist them in maintaining their dignity by giving them quarters for a shower or getting them clothes when theirs are worn.

We have been working with a man who has been homeless and living in his car for over 18 months. He has searched seriously for a home and has jumped through all of the needed hoops to try to get somewhere to live. He uses the library to look for resources and has filled out many applications. He continues to follow up routinely with each low income housing source.

Last month, I was calling resources for housing, on his behalf, and found myself very frustrated. I know that there are few places for low income housing on the island, but wanted to update our records. All I got were voicemails and I left many messages. I did not get return calls from most of these resources for several days and as of March 31 still hadn’t heard from one county contact. Now I really felt the same lack of dignity that our clients do when their phone calls are not returned. No wonder they give up and end up in jail or the hospital when they are not able to get help and are treated with such little respect.

Please take the time to stop and think how you respond to the many homeless or less fortunate that you deal with everyday. Do you take the time to call them back? How would you feel if you had very few phone minutes and many of them are used by being on hold and still getting no answers? Are we too busy going to meetings, talking about problems, and wishing for things to change, or are we serving the clients we have set out to help? What are we really here for? Many times, what they really want is to be treated humanely, have a place to take a shower, use the restroom or wash their clothes.

As a taxpayer in Island County with a persevering mindset, and some would say outspoken, I am determined to demand that the less fortunate in our community, who have no voice, be heard. These are survivors who have lasted through many trials and tribulations. Please treat them with the respect and dignity everyone deserves.



Helping Hand executive director