Brandi was a member of Mary’s Place, Matt Talbot Center, and Angelines, and she had many friends at Noel House. She was loved by many people.
Leaf Location: Noel House
Many mourn 2 from the street
by Nicole Brodeur, Seattle Times staff columnist
originally published in Seattle Times May 10, 2010
Brandi Lambert was found in a parking lot on Fourth Avenue, wrapped in a blanket, her backpack still on her back.
Robert Hansen was found in his pickup, parked in Seattle’s Sodo District, two days after he was released from a short stay at Swedish Medical Center for internal bleeding.
It doesn’t really matter, though, where Lambert and Hansen each laid their heads on their final night.
What matters is that they were each part of a community. That they are missed. That there is an empty chair by the window at Mary’s Place — a day shelter for women — where Lambert used to sit. And that there is a pile of flowers and notes in front of the PCC Natural Markets in Seward Park, where Hansen used to sell Real Change.
“We will miss you,” read one of many remembrances written on a poster on the wall inside the door of the PCC. “Thanks for the help getting kiddos to the car and conversation.”
At a memorial held at Mary’s Place, women keened and cried in their seats over Lambert’s death; the life that was cut off at 36 (her sister, Lacey Swan, blamed drugs) and the life she brought to the place.
She would write poetry, or read the Bible. She was so well-known that the Rev. Linda Smith, who visits Mary’s Place, thought she was an employee.
“Brandi inspired my recuperation,” said Sheila Esinhart, 54. “She helped me get my sanity back and had the biggest shoulders. From one homeless person to another homeless person.”
And yet, it seems Lambert and Hansen weren’t seen as homeless. That they had no place of their own meant nothing to those who considered them part of their lives.
“Obviously, Robert had an effect on people,” said PCC customer Sean Egon. “He couldn’t help but change your mind about homeless people. This was someone who was there, on a regular schedule, rather than someone passing through or stumbling around on the street.”
Real Change Executive Director Tim Harris said that people are afraid of the homeless, that they look past and devalue them. The homeless internalize those messages, he said, and start to believe they have no place.
“But then they start selling the paper,” Harris said, “and they develop this large network of human connections that is very authentic and transformational.
“They value themselves because they are valued by the broader community.”
Hansen, who was 58, was known for recommending stories in Real Change, but also for telling stories about his own life. He would watch your dog while you ran inside, help you load the car.
Lambert was scheduled to move into her own apartment on the very day she died. Some saw it as cruelly ironic; others as an act of God.
“I believe God took her because he didn’t want her to be alone in her apartment,” said Carol Shannon, a Mary’s Place client and friend of Lambert’s. “I think he took her for safekeeping.”
Back at the PCC, I spotted this on the wall:
“You were one of us,” someone wrote of Hansen. “A respected friend, a co-worker and member of the community. We are saddened to have lost you.”
I can’t think of a better eulogy than that; telling someone who didn’t have a home that he had one with them. That he left something.
A memory. A lesson. A place.
A leaf for Robert Hansen will be placed at Seward Park PCC later this summer (2011).