Yesterday the Kiwanis Club of Kent hosted “Hope for Families” at Golden Steer Restaurant t0 raise awareness of the changing face of homelessness. With presentations from Officer Autumn Majack of the Kent Police Department and author Richard LeMieux, a former homeless man, as guest speaker, the club accomplished its task, yielding donations of coats, hats, gloves and more.
Following an invocation by Dr. Lee Vargas of the Kent School District and introductions by Sally Goodgion, the program turned to Officer Majack, also known as Miss Nancy to those she protects. Working the streets of Kent for the last 12 years, Officer Majack has met a number of homeless men, women and families, including many she will never forget like Joey, Giggles and Cowboy. Officer Majack recounted a number of stories of homeless men and women she has encountered over the years, most with challenges we cannot begin to imagine.
She readily admits that the homeless don’t always smell or look pleasant, but she also reminded the crowd of nearly 100 that the homeless are human too and deserve respect. Fortunately, she has seen some success stories along the way.
“There are positive sides to seeing people heal themselves. I learn through them,” Officer Majack said. “As long as we accept them for being human, we can give them hope.”
Sometimes cash donations are acceptable, she explained, but in many cases, food and clothing are more appropriate.
Called an “angel in uniform” by guests in the room, Officer Majack was followed by the formerly homeless Richard LeMieux, the author of Breakfast at Sally’s. Once a successful sports writer and directory publisher, LeMieux lost everything he had at age 58. He was evicted from his home and found himself living in his car with only his clothes and his dog Willow. Six months later, a depressed and homeless LeMieux tried to take his own life on Christmas Day 2002 on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge.
“I looked in the mirror and looked at this worthless, homeless man,” he said.
His dog Willow – the only thing that loved him in the world – is what kept him alive. Over the sounds of traffic on the bridge, LeMieux heard Willow’s cries, calling him back from almost certain death.
“Willow is a true angel that saved my life,” he explained.
He drove to Bremerton and parked in the Salvation Army parking lot that night and awoke the following morning to see more than 100 people lined up for breakfast at a soup kitchen named Sally’s. He met the “angels of many faces,” he explained, and looked in the faces of homeless men and women and, for the first time in six months, he laughed over the color of the carrots and the mystery meat that resisted being cut.
“I realized I was still good. I didn’t need to be thrown away,” LeMieux said. “I had found the real heroes I’d been looking for my whole life.”
He encouraged those in the audience to continue to give hope to the homeless by giving donations, listening to them and touching their hearts.
“Let’s make and change the world into a better place that we can all be proud of,” LeMieux said. “We can’t ignore homelessness. We just can’t. It’s going to get worse.”
Homeless facts offered during the luncheon:
- The average age of a homeless person is 18.
- There are more homeless women and children than ever before.
To learn more about how you can help the homeless, contact Sally Goodgion at the Kiwanis Club of Kent.
[Special author's note: Thanks to all of those at my table who contributed their programs as note paper, making this article possible.]