Sep 08, 2014 12:20am
PHOTO: Everett at night
Date: 
December 5, 2013 - 2:39pm

Everett changes when the sun goes down, explore the streets after dark. // Nathaniel Lynch & Jake Nicholls 

For more photos from our adventures in North Everett, click here. 

North Everett between the hours of midnight and 4 a.m. is a place in time that most people would rather avoid. Stereotypes, not wholly inaccurate, fuel some misapprehensions about this town. Admittedly, north Broadway during the wee hours of the morning isn’t particularly scenic, but one needn’t fear for their safety walking along it.

Yes, homeless people, some of whom have latent psychiatric problems, battling substance abuse, sleep under overpasses and stairwells. Yes, there are ladies of the town, some of them underage, plying their trade. Yes, drug deals frequently happen at bus stations, public parks and alleyways where the miasma of urine hangs heavy.

None of these things are or should be any surprise. Everett is a city with real city problems. Also, like any suburb, it inherits many of its problems from the neighboring metropolis – in this case Seattle.

Everett being the county seat of Snohomish, and thus the site of the county jail, it gets more then its fair share of reprobates, recently set free. Data compiled by the FBI places Everett at a moderate to high level of violent crime, compared with other municipalities across the state. In 2009 the Uniform Crime Reporting Program recorded 5 murders and 51 “forcible rapes” – as opposed to statutory rape (presumably) – in the city of Everett. That’s higher than the national average.

To put that in perspective, Seattle topped the murder list at 22 the same year and Tacoma took rape with 147 counts. 2086 miles away, Chicago recorded 458 murders in 2009.

So the “all American city” isn’t quite Disneyland. Then again, it’s not quite the seventh level of hell either.

Looking beyond such grim numbers from the mid-west, there is one area where the State of Washington appears to be making strides. Following the passage of the Homelessness Housing and Assistance Act in 2005, the Department of Commerce has worked with counties to implement public assistance programs for the homeless. Each county was required to develop a ten-year plan to combat homelessness and to conduct an annual census of homeless persons.

Commonly called the Point In Time count, Snohomish County’s results show a 46 percent decrease in its homeless population since 2012 – down to 947 from 2,047 (less than one percent of Everett’s total population.) It’s worth noting those numbers are only the combined population of “sheltered” and “unsheltered” persons. There’s a separate category for “chronically homeless individuals.” This segment of the population has changed little – 156 as of 2012 – and these are the folks you’re most likely to see at night in Everett.

Now enter the stereotypes, not wholly inaccurate, that blanket Everett as a city.

Among those interviewed, the mean time spent homeless is three to four years. Some of the men sleep at the shelter, but unless you enroll in one of the mission’s programs, you can’t stay for more than a night. Not everyone wants to go that route so they camp out somewhere and otherwise find their own way.

One of the weekend desk personnel at the Everett Gospel Mission’s men’s shelter, Jim Townsend, said that of the 186 people counted on a night last week at the shelter, less than one hundred were enrolled in one of the programs offered. The Salvation Army, across town, has offered cold weather shelter in the past, but their capacity is limited. When that’s closed, it’s rumored that the dumpster behind the carpet store is well insulated with foam and remnants.

All of the people we spoke with hold a very down-to-earth view of their situation. A string of bad luck and bad choices, most commonly – though not always – associated with narcotics abuse. Because of this, Everett’s “chronically homeless” population can’t acquire and retain employment or, subsequently, residence.  Now that the winter chill is setting in they begin to look for assistance from state aid and volunteer organizations if they don’t want to freeze. 

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