I’ve known Luke for about five years now and have come to appreciate his quiet demeanor. He often stands out from the hustle and bustle of Broadway because of his shy nature. Luke doesn’t keep a lot of friends but considers Rick, the person he’s with tonight, his closest ally. Smiling and in a soft tone he reveals “I feel safer and happier being around him. He’s my best friend.” Rick acknowledges the compliment with a big smile and friendly nod.
“I was born in Arizona in 1978 and grew up there with my family. I lived in Germany for about 3 years but consider Seattle my home now. I’ve lived here for about 15 years and most of them homeless on Capitol Hill. Sometimes I wish I could get off the streets because it can get rough, but I do enjoy the freedom. I have family in Tucson, a brother and sister that I talk to sometimes but I don’t miss them too much. I guess they miss me, though. My street friends and Rick especially – they are my family now and we look out for each other. At least we try, you know? We fight, we argue but we always come back for each other in the end because nobody else will.”
Luke is up front about his drug use and the impact it’s had on his life.
“My drug of choice is heroin but it used to be meth. I really wish I hadn’t done either. I wanted to be a doctor but lost my self esteem when I started using. It’s horrible being addicted especially being dope sick (withdrawals). Your eyes water, bones ache, stomach hurts, muscles tighten and spasm…runny nose, diarrhea. It doesn’t even get me high anymore, actually, it just takes the pain away and helps me feel normal.”
I asked him what he thought about Capitol Hill.
“I like it but most people think the homeless are addicts and that isn’t true. I am, but I don’t like being judged on that alone. A lot of people out here are homeless for reasons beyond their control – other than drugs. I wish I had never done drugs to be honest. I’ve been in and out of treatment and jail several times but it didn’t work and here I am again. It doesn’t make me bad person, though.”
His advice for others was simple:
“Don’t do drugs, especially meth because it will lead you to heroin. You’ll wind up an addict and on the streets like me. It’s a shit-hole out here and here is where you will die – alone.”
Somber words he hopes others will hear.
With that, the two gather up their belongings and ready themselves for another night on the streets of Hill. “I’m happy to do this interview,” Luke says as he shakes my hand. “To think about my life and whether it’s time for change was a good thing I haven’t done in a long while. Thank you.” Kind words indeed, and ones that could well serve me in the future. Thank you, Luke.