Dori: Rebuffed by City of Seattle, grassroots volunteers get ‘Lawn Mower Man’ off the streets
After more than a year of terrorizing Ballard neighbors with noise and profanity from his encampment on a public sidewalk, Seattle’s headline-grabbing “Lawn Mower Man” has agreed to accept shelter placement.
What finally convinced Charles Woodward to leave the chaos of blaring round-the-clock music, two wooden sheds, more than a dozen lawn mowers and his ear-splitting metal grinder? Two women from “We Heart Seattle” – a grassroots crew of neighbors from Northwest Seattle who were recently chastised by Seattle City Councilmember Dan Strauss and other city leaders for cleaning up 320,000 pounds of curbside garbage and helping 68 indigent tent-and-tarp dwellers off the street and into shelters.
The key to persuading Woodward to leave the corner of Eighth Avenue Northwest and Northwest 49th Street? WHS organizer Andrea Suarez credits volunteer teammate Tracy Belaire, who was formerly homeless and living in a Bitter Lake encampment before finding support and moving to a women’s shelter.
After Belaire “broke the ice” with Woodward, Suarez says WHS outreach volunteers “clicked with him.” Instead of lashing out in crude, profanity-laced tirades like those shown by KOMO TV reporter Jonathan Chou, Suarez found him to be “grumpy and mean, but his heart is there, too, somewhere deep down.”
Suarez says Woodward laughed when she told him, “you remind me of ‘Bad Santa in Jail.'”
Ten minutes after meeting him, “Charles and Tracy were embracing and laughing and she was in tears,” Suarez said. “He really reminds us of a bunch of different characters we’ve all probably had in our life at one point.”
After opening up to both women, Suarez says, Woodward told them: “‘I’m tired of being angry,’ … and he started telling me what kind of housing he would accept.”
Belaire, who calls herself “lucky” to volunteer on the streets, calls Woodward “wonderful.”
“He’s got a special place in my heart,” she said.
“One thing Charles wanted me to get out is that he is not a drug user. We didn’t find one needle, cap, pipe, foil or broken alcohol bottle,” Suarez added. “We removed more than 10,000 pounds over the last week and it was just a lot of hoarding.”
Listen to Dori’s entire interview with Suarez and Belaire:
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