Finding humanity in the time of Covid.
Lisa Power Salon
536 5th Avenue West #102
Seattle, Washington, USA
As with every other city, COVID-19 profoundly impacted Seattle. Businesses, schools and public spaces closed their doors. Once bustling streets and sidewalks filled with vehicles and pedestrians became eerily empty. And concerns of economic uncertainty grew as what we once believed to be a short-term situation stretched into months and past the one-year mark.
Our already difficult homeless crisis became even more extreme and desperate, and a large homeless encampment grew right in my neighborhood. At first, I was upset at the lack of help from the city and the unbelievable amount of garbage accumulating. There was open-air drug use, no hygiene services, open fires, tents burning, home invasions, car prowls, shoplifting, gun fire, machetes…it was craziness….and nobody knew what to do. And while I knew that it wasn’t fair to blame everything on the homeless, they became my focus.
What I witnessed made me sad and angry. I grew disheartened with the city, mad at the homeless people, frustrated for my neighbors trying to get into the drug store to do their shopping, and aggravated because going to the grocery store often required that I had to mentally prepare myself for what I would experience – being followed, screamed at and fear for my wellbeing. I didn’t feel safe in my neighborhood.
It was a bad time. My salon was closed, and I didn’t know what I was supposed to be doing. I decided to act. I started a group called Tidy Uptown in my Seattle neighborhood called Uptown that became part of the community organization called Uptown Alliance. Our neighborhood includes all the Seattle Center campus where the iconic Space Needle is located. I started working with my city Councilman quarterly and asking for help and coordinating on homelessness projects and solutions. My core committee grew to 7 members and we still meet weekly. We began with monthly clean ups to address the growing accumulation of trash in Uptown. My group grew to about 100 volunteers, and people said it felt good trying to make a difference but just didn’t know where to start. Within two clean ups, we cleared the largest littered area in Uptown. It was then that the city took notice and helped us pick it up. There were many hours of clearing thousands of pounds of trash and numerous trips to the dump, but I started to feel better. I got to know our unsheltered neighbors, and I felt better knowing their names and what they needed.
Pretty soon, I started doing outreach with our unhoused neighbors and working with nonprofit organizations to help them into shelters, tiny homes and hotels that the city made available for people experiencing homeless. We were able to get several folks into tiny homes as a result. We contacted building owners whose building were full of graffiti and block by block we worked on getting graffiti removed. We worked on public safety issues. We kept cleaning up garbage. We started a beautification project, and we are designing signal box art, banners that brand the neighborhood, welcome to Uptown signs, and encouraging more murals which mitigates graffiti. I’m working with the Tiny House Villages and donating products graciously donated by Salon Services to welcome new residents to the villages.
Slowly, our neighborhood is coming back. It’s a tough job, but we just keep plugging away. I have always said I’d rather be part of the solution, not just complain about the problem. I feel better when I act – powerful, energized, directed, helpful…neighborly. I believe in taking care of your backyard. If I can inspire everyone to do a little to take care of their neighbors, take care of their neighborhood, their less fortunate neighbors, their street, we will all be better off, and our world will be more beautiful, neighborly, and peaceful. Through this difficult time, I was able to harness my anger into rediscovering my humanity. I wish the same for all.
Started Tidy Uptown, my committee on October 23rd, 2020. We have met weekly on Mondays ever since and completed 10 clean ups and assisted on many others in other neighborhoods throughout the city supporting other organizations. We are currently working on all of the projects outlined in my story. I’m a busy girl!