Kimberly Hakes. Just another name. Just another homeless person. Just another dead body with its head bashed to bits in a public park. Just another article in the news. Pick it up...read it...put it back down...go out the door...and life goes on.
I never saw any "makeshift shrine" set-up in her memory. No votive candles, no teddy bears, or
colorful balloons swaying in a mournful breeze. No, I never saw any media photographs of signs saying, "Gee, Kimbo...I'm sorry that you were so cruelly murdered by a psycho
No, I never saw a public outpouring of grief for Ms. Hakes. And even if it did happen and I missed
it...would it have made any difference in the long-range scheme of things?
But the recent article written by Rob Goffins in The Corvallis Advocate sure caught my attention.
Yes, it did.
Sitting where I am today, perched at a lofty height in a Newport, Oregon motel room...I am at
peace. My day has been filled with good Chinese food...sweet music in my ears from my
laptop...and an awesome view of silver rolled waves crashing against a long, rugged beach.
But one night several months ago, I sat on my backpack, in the outskirts of Corvallis, in the pouring
rain and tried all night long to get a ride out. I didn't get a ride until the following morning...when
a very kind man drove me to a church in Lebanon.
I spent some time at the women's winter shelter in Corvallis after it opened last Fall. But I never
felt comfortable there. By that I mean that I was constantly reminded by many people in the
local provider-system that I came from "somewhere else." And so...it was generally understood
that eventually I would move on to "somewhere else" again.
No, I am not a native "Corvallisite." And most likely I never will be. Since I have been traveling
around North America for years, I don't think my residency status really matters. The old
saying: "No Matter Where You Travel...There You Are" most certainly applies to me.
But Kim Hakes never had to worry about me. I never threatened to kill her or anybody else at
the shelter or the drop-in center. I didn't like every homeless person that I rubbed elbows with
in Corvallis but I never considered killing any of them.
But I overheard conversations and some of them would never be printed on a greeting card. There
is a lot of anger simmering below the surface in the Corvallis homeless community. And that
malice is not limited to homeless people from "out of town." In fact, local emotions across the
homeless population board have really nothing to do with anybody's "place of origin."
I believe that Kimberly Hakes' death has everything to do with someone else's loss of
respect for human life. That may read like an over-simplified sentence but it's the truth. And
whether Kim's killer was a local resident or someone from another location doesn't matter.
What does matter is the fact that the lady is dead...a victim of a brutally violent crime...and her killer is still free.
Was her death the result of a drug deal gone bad? Did she piss off a gang member or a drunk?
Or did an "upstanding" member of the community, a local Corvallisite...hit her like she was
Don't pass her death off on another homeless person...that may or may not be the case.
I spent two weeks at the transit center before the women's shelter opened last Fall. Some of you
may have seen me there at night. Every evening, for two weeks, I unrolled my sleeping bag on
one of the concrete slabs (when it rained I sat inside a bus shelter) and pillowed my head on
my big backpack.
Did I sleep?
Yes...but "with one eye open."
The cops, whom I nicknamed (not to their face) "The Midnight Copboys" knew I was there. I
didn't hide myself...on the contrary...I made my presence known.
Would the decision to sleep in a more high-profile area...have saved Kimberly Hakes' life?
We will never know for sure. But I am blessed that God never allowed anyone to hate me as
much as someone must have hated her. Someone evil...from the local area or "somewhere else."