It’s September in South Seattle. Rain pounds the dark scene like a bad cinema effect. A band of beaten down folks has gathered away from the flashing blue lights and hazardous waste vehicles. Their meager salvaged possessions heaped in a few piles and small carts. There’s wet clothing, mold and mental illness in the vacant stares. Confusion and sadness in the aftermath of another encampment sweep. Two grown men embrace each other weeping. A young woman stares stone faced at the ground.

Andor is steel eyed and focused. The rain runs off his face. “They took most of our things.” he says angrily. But he turns and speaks gently to his companions, proposing a strategy for their next camp. He negotiates the chaos with determination and a thick accent.

Andor was born in Budapest, Hungary in a war-torn town and time. The son of a motorcycle gang king-pin, they lived in the woods and in abandoned bomb shelters. He hunted wild pigs and was drafted into the military at a young age. He served a short time as a POW. “I can’t tell you what happened to me there, but afterwards I became a bad person. I wanted to hurt people.”

Andor escaped to America using a fake black market passport. He joined the Army and served in the Persian Gulf, Iraq, and Afghanistan wars. “I was a soldier. Fighting was all I ever knew.” Afterwards he made good money smuggling Mexican families into the US. He was arrested and spent 4 years in prison. He ran a paint business for a while. But a struggle with cancer left him weak and unable to work. Andor became homeless. “I can live this way. I learned how growing up.”

Andor survives conditions that have stirred havoc in the lives and hearts of others. He endures the hardships of homelessness and remains stable surrounded by mental illness, abuse, and emotional trauma. Domestic violence, sweeps, endless rain, and snow. He is appreciated by his small community as they are swept from place to place.

Andor is always polite. Always positive. Always the same.
At age 46 Andor isn’t hurting people anymore. He likes fishing and has a keen interest in post apocalyptic sci-fi. He loves medieval garb, weaponry, and “steam punk” imagery. His mask collection lines the walls of his tents. He has artistic skills blending medieval costume effects with modern styles and materials. His eyes light up as he explains. And it’s really hard to believe Andor ever hurt anyone.

Back at the corner, a distraught man clutches a bible while fumbling aimlessly though damp belongings. A young man sits on the curb and vomits as he cries in the rain. An exiting police car passes by closely. The officer’s eyes remain straight ahead.

SODO Neighborhood | Damian

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