Editor's Note: Twice a day, the Union Gospel Mission, a faith-based homeless services organization, deploys teams of volunteers throughout Seattle to provide assistance to homeless individuals and families. Known as Search and Rescue, the nighttime contingent of that program distributes food, drinks, clothes, shoes, socks, blankets and other personal grooming products to those living on the margins. Kyle Kesterson, the founder and CEO of Freak'n Genius and himself formerly homeless, is one of those volunteers. Here, he documents a night on the street.
Dru, Director of Search & Rescue, welcomes the volunteers. Formerly homeless himself, Dru has been clean and sober and working for Union Gospel Mission for the last three years. His brief introduction highlights the purpose of the Union Gospel Mission, what to expect, how to engage and house rules for maintaining safety.
The Search & Rescue team combs various areas of the city, looking for people to serve. Michael, the man living in this trailer, chose to show his optimism and hope through the smiley face emblazoned on the back of his trailer.
These two American flags tell two different stories. Kato, who lives in what's considered a mansion on the street, is trying to survive at rock bottom, while large corporations conduct business as usual. The same country, the same city, the same neighborhood, the same people.
When Search & Rescue first approached this man, the team wasn't sure whether he was even alive. When he did come to, distant and obviously very hungry, he began shoveling food into his mouth. The resources that Search & Rescue provides often come at a crucial time in a person's life, when individuals feel beyond hope and may be considering suicide.
A simple prayer from a compassionate stranger can provide a burst of light in a dark time. This man prays with members of the Search & Rescue team.
Most people don't actively choose homelessness, but addiction, mental health issues, poor choices and unfortunate circumstances can all lead there. After giving up trying to find a vein in his arm, this man searches for one in his leg.
Down near the waterfront, under the viaduct, is an area referred to as Rat City, where people live in harsh conditions, often fighting drug addictions. One volunteer hand-delivers sandwiches to Rat City residents.
With a lot of time on their hands, some choose to read inspirational material, like Steve Jobs' biography.
Sixty-two-year-old Michael Anthony put his two daughters (a doctor and dentist) through school, before walking in on his wife and best friend together. He says a fight over the matter escalated quickly, and his best friend pulled a gun on him. Being an ex-Marine, Anthony managed to get the gun away from him and shot his best friend. This year he was released from prison after serving five years for manslaughter.
Meet Bella. Dogs are a regular companion to those on the streets, and they too need love and support. At the time of this photo, Bella was living in a tent shelter with a temporary owner and her brother, Thor. Her original owner wound up in prison, leaving Bella and Thor to live with his girlfriend, who is unable to care for them. Just this week, Bella found a forever home, but Thor is still looking for a permanent home. Every Wednesday, Mission Gospel Mission provides a free veterinary clinic for pets living on the streets.
The Jungle, a 100-acre tract of land along the north slope of Beacon Hill, is known as the city's most dangerous homeless community. About 300 people live there. Here, at its edge, under I-5, it's pitch black. Even still, the Search & Rescue team is met with hugs and handshakes from those happy for a meal.