ABERDEEN WA: Nov 16th 2022: As I write this, you have to realize I, most likely, couldn’t pass a drug test at the moment. Not quite as bad as Hunter Thompson’s opening line in his tome Fear and Loathing, but lets just say……I have a pretty good idea what Fentanyl smells like now.
Aberdeen Washington. sleepy little town, oh, about 30,000 people. Hard workers too. History of logging. People pull their weight around here. God is barely hanging on in the county, but he is still here. Just an average little town that spends most of its money at Walmart and minds its own business.
Aberdeen is changing though.
What started as a tent, now encompasses several large shanty towns. They aren’t temporary.,….and they aren’t just tents.
I visited three of the “neighborhoods” today. And there are more I didn’t go to.
As you can imagine you are struck with the stench well before you set foot in the communities. Quite a feat considering they are located next to Grays Harbor Bay and had to compete with the lovely low-tide fragrance.
There were too many torn pieces of burned tin foil and other smoking delivery systems littering the area to count. Some balled up, tossed aside, some just left on the ground. Yes, there were needles, although I expected to see more of them.
There were many store tags littering the ground and one “tent” had a whole plastic bag of them laying by the side. I am sure the result of trips to Walmart……a block or two away.
Pure filth doesn’t begin to describe the camps.
I spoke with several of the “residents”. It was about ten in the morning. I’m not crazy enough to go there at night.
I wanted to know if the police bothered them. “no”, one said….they just ignore us.
“Where do you get the drugs?” I asked an early 20 something with a face full of scabs and open sores.
“Oh, just go to the Aberdeen Library”. Apparently one dealer has set up shop. Later I drove by the library, and there were a dozen shopping carts full to the brim lined up as the entrance. Business booming? Im not crazy enough to go into the Aberdeen Public Library to find out. Even if it is located across the street from the Aberdeen Police Department. It isn’t safe.
I have to say, It wasn’t a threatening experience at all. At the second camp I visited, we just all stood around talking a bit….they all figured out I wasn’t a threat ……and I became nothing more than another piece of the camp ever changing furniture.
There was one fifteen minute period that I watched four young men, obviously tweaked out, trying to assemble a medium sized blue tent. It was too much for them and they gave up.
It wasn’t long before you start to see the white smoke coming through the cracks in the tents here and there. A windless morning and while I was trying to figure out what was going on the smell hit me. It wasn’t a ripe low tide either.
Not knowing how much exposure you can take standing in the midst of people smoking Fentanyl and God knows what else, I hot footed myself out of the area.
It is just everywhere.
There are three groups of what we collectively refer to as “homeless” in Aberdeen. At least as far as I saw and was able to gather.
The first, the profession homeless. Just think of the guy or lady living out of a shopping cart. They tend to be older. Not so much into the drugs. Alcohol more likely, some mental illness, but able to get by. They don’t bother people much and live longer.
The second, the hard core drug user. Young, late teens through 30s….if they live that long. They are aggressive, paranoid, and the main residents of the camps. Burglary, petty theft, drug sales fuel the economy of the camps. Most of them won’t live a year. They will get an infection, a liver will give out, or they will OD. Their replacements are in the works and the camps live and breathe like an organism.
The third are the mentally ill. They aren’t hard to spot. These poor people are at the bottom of the pecking order. I saw several wandering around, arms flailing, conversations with the invisible. They live at the edges of the camps, even the drug users don’t want to deal with them.
This isn’t just something that goes on in Seattle, or even down into Olympia. The lack of police enforcement and the blind eye the citizens of Washington State have developed, is now creeping into the small towns in the state.
And the shanty-towns in Aberdeen are growing. So is the crime and public health concerns associated with it.
I’m not going to pile on, it is just so very sad. I would be completely amazed if many I saw and spoke to today were alive in a year. Everyone is sick of this, but the bottom line is that too many people are making too much money off of them. Far too much of that money is funneled back into political campaigns. It is an industry now. A government factory producing death and disease. Efficiently.
What I saw were not people who were homeless. As one young man told me, “we don’t want to live in a place with rules”. What they want, for the most part, is to just be able to do as much drugs as they want. The mentally ill have no idea what they want. They aren’t even there, and most of them have a horrible death awaiting them on the streets of a small town. A two blocks or so from Walmart, three blocks or so from the police station.