One day I was handing out lunches out of the back of my van at the Lazarus Day Center when it was on Occidental, a store owner walked out from their storefront and started yelling at me for feeding so many people. She called the police and all the homeless folks circled me to keep me from harm. A friend of mine, Chris Pence, who is an attorney, was in a meeting at the top of his office building at the Smith Towers and his partner looked out of the window. He was drawn to the crowd a few blocks away and wondered what was going on. He looked at Chris and said “is that Beverly down there?”… And so they hiked down the four blocks to where I was encircled by a human wall. Two three piece suits introduced themselves to the police officers as my “Attorneys”. The police left…The store owner went back into her store. I gave everyone a lunch and the drama, that day, was over!
However, the Seattle police harassed me a lot in the early days of the program; 1989 to 1994. I was fined, cited, detained… One time on a very icy cold day, I walked across the street to give a lunch to a double amputee who couldn’t cross over the ice. I was given a ticket for Jay Walking. It was getting to be a battle of wills. The newspaper did a story about aggressive panhandlers and the editorial cartoon in the paper had a homeless man yelling at a tourist, “GIVE ME YOUR SPARE CHANGE”, as he grabbed him by the shirt collar. Behind him was a little short woman, looking suspiciously like me, reaching out with a lunch in her hand saying timidly “would you like a lunch?” The editorial suggested we should ship all the homeless people out of Seattle and get rid of all the “do gooders”… I had never thought of myself as a “do gooder”… The caption on the story was “Garbage in the Park”… I started bringing big black garbage bags with me and the guys would walk around the sidewalks picking up all the garbage they could find.
One particularly hard day with lots of people, lots of cops, and me; a white van squealed down the street and parked illegally across from where I was standing in the throng. A man jumped out of the van with a camera crew. He jay walked in front of the cops and walked over to me; his crew filming him all the while. He reached down and picked me up and held me in an enormous bear hug. This gallant knight in a beat-up news van was Ken Schram… Unbeknown to me he was a fan of my music…still is… and was following my unpopularity with the Seattle police and the merchants. That night Ken did an editorial that talked about Seattle’s inhumanity… The police stopped harassing me after that for a while, and I began a slow evolution towards understanding the view from the watchtower… I have had many hero’s!