‘They all look at me like I’m the grandfather who survived all of hell’

Lawrence said he’s “kind of popular” in the homeless community in Seattle. A lot of people around the area see him as a mentor figure. He stops, hears people’s story, gives them any advice he might have.

At first, he said, he didn’t think he had much to offer people. But he soon realized he was wrong.

“They all look at me like I’m the grandfather who survived all of hell. They all look at me for the answers,” said Lawrence, a beacon holder. “Turns out, I have a lot to offer.”

Lawrence has countless experiences navigating every corner of Seattle. He’s been fishing and camping since he was a kid, working in various shipyards. He has rarely stayed in the same place for more than a year-and-a-half, instead choosing to hop from one place to another. And he’s a talented artist. He experimented with different types of shading and sculpting in prison and was even able to perfect the art of carving a sculpture out of a bar of soap.

He has a lot of goals now, too. He wants to work as a professional artist by day. He said he thinks of art as an escape. When he draws, he uses a style of pointillism, meticulously making individual dots to create detailed landscapes of mountains, places he says he’s very familiar with. Now, he’s even working on sculpting a bird out of a tree trunk. Art gives him the chance to let his mind wander — get away from the constant hustle of staying in shelters, working through his past and just trying to stay afloat. It lets him “stay in his own headspace,” he said.

He hopes to sell his art, get it in a gallery or an art show and make a living off of it. But he’s still working on how to do that.

One day, he hopes to buy a boat — where he has spent a lot of time in the past — and travel to places that experience natural disasters so he can help create a system to provide clean water to those in need.

But for now, Lawrence said he’s just trying to get by with what he has.

“I’m not asking for handouts,” he said. “It ain’t happening till I make it happen.”

About the Author

Rebecca is a social services reporter at The Frederick News-Post. She graduated from Northwestern University, where she studied journalism and political science. She served as Managing Editor, Summer Editor-In-Chief and Campus Editor at The Daily Northwestern and previously interned at The Miami Herald.