Homeless In Seattle – A True Story

… so I went down to The Gap and bought a change of clothes during the lunch break at the PASS Community Summit.



A group of conference attendees in town for a certain technical summit are walking down Pike Street in Seattle on a warm Fall evening on their way to a Karoke bar.  None of those in attendance know where this bar is, only a few even want to Karaoke, however when in Rome…  I recall it was either Tom LaRock or Grant Fritchey that paid a local street camper a couple dollars for directions and secured the transaction with success.  Though I wanted to go on with the group, it was getting to the point where I was not sure how much longer the buses would be running outbound from downtown to Wallingford, where I was staying with friends for the week.  Backpack slung over shoulder I said my goodbyes and went off on my way.

I was able to catch the last outbound 26 bus through Fremont – it drops me right at Scott and Karen’s doorstep – and I march up to the porch just shy of midnight.  Fumbling with the still unfamilar lock, they’ve bought this house and moved in since the last time I was in town; no success.  They key would not go in all the way (or so it seemed to me).  I knocked gently, not wanting to wake their infant daughter if asleep and I had no response.  Normally they are late to bed, but my luck was bombing quickly. 

“Shi-!  OK, what to do?  I could sleep on the porch!” 

“Temps in the 40s, no sleeping bag.  Bad idea.”

“Wait!  The bus still travels back inbound one last time.  I’ll catch it up on 45th and ride it back down.  I’ll meet up with everyone at the Karaoke bar and get a room at the hotel.”

“Perfect idea, voice in my head #2!”

So I did just that, with one exception.  I wasn’t the one who secured the transaction with the homeless Julie McCoy (Bing it, younglings!)  I had no idea where they were.  Never mind though, right?  I’ll just hit the Sheraton and grab a room.  No problem.  It’s November in Seattle.  No one goes to Seattle in November, their rainiest month!  Plenty of rooms!

Wrong.  Sheraton sold out. 

Sheraton points me to Hotel #2.  (I can’t recall the name.)  Walk to Hotel #2.  Heck, it’s not that far as I recall.  Stroll into Hotel #2 full of confidence: “I’d like a room please!  Higher floor if you have it!”

Sold out.

Hotel #3.  Walk in, “I was referred to you by hotel #2.  Funny, story but I find myself in need of a room tonight.  A single please.  Doesn’t matter what floor.”

Sold out.

Hotel #3 refers me to hotel #4 and #5 to try.  Oh, by now it is around 3 am.  I walk into Hotel #4.  By now I am scoping out covered overpasses and warm air grates as a fallback plan.  “Good morning, funny story (funny story told, Hotel 1, 2, 3 sold out, ha ha ha…)

Sold out.

Hotel #5 is right across the street – bonus! 

Don’t step on cracks.  Cross fingers.  I walk through the doors and into the lobby.  Warm, smells nice – nothing like the urine and stale fry grease of the air grate I was planning on claiming later.  The desk clerk was very nice as she listened to my story.  Her voice took on a musical tone as she told me that the hotel was “Sold out.”  “However, let me make a few calls for you to see if I can find you a vacancy at another hotel.”

“You can do that?”  Great idea!  (This was before everyone was walking around with GPS and iPhones/Blackberries.)

And with that little bit of thinking and assistance I was placed into a cab and dropped off four blocks away at another hotel I walked by twice as I traversed the 10 block radius I covered over the past 3+ hours.  I secured a room and had the best 5 hour sleep of my night.  I put back on the clothes I wore the day before and through the brief period of time I was homeless in Seattle.  Making my way back to the convention center I was able to at least get some coffee and hit the first session of the day.  I ran into Tom and the others later over the course of the morning.  Telling them my story.  I loved Tom’s reaction.  “You could’ve crashed in my room!”

If I only thought about finding them that would have been so easy.


In an odd turn of events, Allen Kinsel was part of this group.  He went on to snap a photo of Tom and I sleeping in the lobby of the Sheraton after coming back to the hotel and socializing in the amazingly comfortable chairs in said lobby.  This was the photo snapped right before Tom woke up and left me there alone.  Which was before security rousted me and asked if I was a guest of the hotel.

“This time around I am”, I declared before going up to my room.

Some of you have heard this story.  It’s all true.  It highlights though just how safe I feel Seattle is.  It also highlights the importance of having a way to contact others in attendance at the PASS Summit.  It also highlight the need for a Buddy System.  Hope you have a fun story to tell from this year’s Summit!