Only as an urban resident — Ep. 1

A prequel:

Episode 1 — Lil’ Annikin

Shihiem is the third out of 10 living children born to his mother. Mom started having kids at age 16. Daddies took turns fathering children while taking turns in and out of jail.

At age 4, Shihiem set the curtains on fire. The firefighters came and found him unsupervised with one infant sibling and one toddler sibling. The state was concerned, and that is how the first five kids ended up in foster care. Continue reading “Only as an urban resident — Ep. 1”

Only as an urban resident — Ep. 1

Only as an urban resident — Ep. 8

An epilogue of some sorts:

Shihiem does not come to my house anymore. After my neighbours told him whatever they told him to get him to leave my porch, they have spotted him twice pacing around the block and teaching little kids how to punch and kick each other. He showed up at work for a few days after my final porch incident. The last day he slammed doors and flipped some chairs in the waiting room. He is now no longer allowed at my workplace.

He showed up at the local church that Sunday and probably stole the pastor’s iPad. Then he left town. A week later his mom loaded up the younger siblings and their belongings into a U-Haul at midnight on a Wednesday and left town. That subsequent Saturday, the house burned down. Thankfully the firefighters come when called. A problem with row homes is that adjacent homes will always suffer some damage from fire. However, no one was injured (except a cat).

One of my roommies is a story-teller by training and by trade. To quote her, “That is the only way this story could have ended.”

No one wished this would end with exile and fire.

These days we just pray for him. We pray for his mind to heal. We pray for his mom. We pray for his siblings. We pray for them to know Jesus. That’s the only thing we can do for Shihiem. That’s the best thing we can do for Shihiem. That’s the best thing we can do for anyone — to commit people and situations in the hands of the Lord who created, knows, and ordains all.

We believe He calls and brings people home. We believe He makes beauty from ashes.

Only as an urban resident — Ep. 8

Only as an urban resident — Ep. 7

It’s Tuesday morning. I normally wake up 20 minutes before I have to be at work because I can get ready in 12 minutes and walk to work in 6.5 minutes with 1.5 minutes to spare. Today I am up a couple hours early. I text my office manager that I will visit the District Attorney at 9 a.m. to try and file a “stay away” order for Shihiem. I text my team members to give them a heads up. I email my boss and other site managers to let them know my situation. The cascade of emails that follows is supportive and encouraging.

I am thankful I have non-clinical time scheduled this morning, that my employer is understanding with these types of situations, and that missing a couple hours of work does not affect my livelihood.

I arrive at the DA’s office before 9. The nice lady at the raw juice bar tells me it’s locked until 9 on the dot. I order a drink, then hope I don’t have an allergic reaction to the celery in it.

At 9 I take a number and start filling out a form. The nice officer receiving the forms comes out to talk to the couple in line before me. This couple explains they are being harassed by the man next door. He waved a hot barbeque pick in the woman’s face and threatened her, “Imma get you!” He is rude, loud, and involved with drugs. The couple has the police involved, as well as licensing & inspection. They seem to have covered all their bases. They have a police report number. They want to file a private criminal complaint and serve their neighbour [restraining order] papers.

The officer explains that the DA cannot do anything because the man did not actually commit a crime. The threat was too vague. The couple needs to keep calling the police. The couple can try going to L&I again for the neighbour’s housing violations.

I listen to all of this and figure the odds of serving papers to Shihiem are slim. The officer is still willing to hear my story and attempt to advise me.

“Again, we only handle criminal cases, in which a crime has been committed. Harassment is considered a summary, which is less than a misdemeanor.”

Basically there is no prevention, just damage control. Kinda like how nobody flosses. 🙁

“A terroristic threat has to be something like, I’m gonna shoot you, or I’m gonna blow you up. I’m gonna get you could mean I’m gonna get you flowers!”

Note to self: next time someone threatens me, ask him or her to be very specific. 🙁

“You could potentially sue him for damaging your property.”

I love litigation! Riiiiiight. 🙁

“He’s homeless? We can’t serve him papers if he doesn’t have an official address where the cops can find him.”

Afraid of getting served? Just move to the streets! Ugh!

So maybe the purpose of this experience was to empathize better with my community, and endure our broken justice system together. I chose to live here (or God did), whereas many of my neighbours cannot afford to live elsewhere. I know God doesn’t promise perfect justice here on this broken earth. It is unsettling to know that where I came from, the police will come when called, and they are not too busy/overworked/understaffed/tired/jaded to address harassment cases. On the flip side, we’ve come a long way from the guillotine, which is still unfortunately a reality in other places.

Lord, Thy kingdom come!

Only as an urban resident — Ep. 7

Only as an urban resident — Ep. 6

A college mentor once told me that if one wants to sound intelligent in a group conversation, but doesn’t really know what’s going on, one must simply exclaim, “But where do you draw the line?!” preferably in a British accent.

I’m drawing the line here.


I finish crying and resolve to finally draw a boundary between Shihiem and my home, as well as my workplace. He has gotten out of control. Something has to be done to protect my roommates, my neighbours on my block, my coworkers, my patients, myself, and Shihiem.

I look up on the Internet: what is a restraining order, am I eligible for this, and how do I get one for Shihiem?

Somehow my neighbours were able to get Shihiem to leave my porch. I explain to them that we are finished trying to help him. As of now, he is not allowed to loiter or squat on my property. They are all relieved. They don’t like him knocking on our door all the time. They don’t like him kicking the church walls across the street. They don’t like him tampering with our mail. They don’t like him sitting across the street watching my house at night. I tell them I will try to get a “stay away” order. They are happy to help, and they are happy to look out for my roommates and me.

Per the police website, my roommie and I go to the justice center after business hours to file a PFA (Protection From Abuse). The security guard points me to a phone with written instructions. Dial this number. The nice woman on the line tells me that I cannot file a PFA because Shihiem is neither my relative nor my boyfriend. I need to go to the district and file a police report first. Then I need to go to the District Attorney at 9 a.m. in the morning with the police report number to file a private criminal complaint.

I look up on the Internet: in which police district do I reside, what are office hours for the police? (24 hours!)… I’ve learned that not all things that should be obvious or intuitive are necessarily a reality, so why should I assume that the police would be open 24/7?

I am at the district. The nice police officer is taking my info down and filling out a long fancy form.

“So, you were threatened by your boyfriend?”

“Umm. No. He is my neighbour.” (According to the Biblical definition of “neighbour”…)

He sighs, then rips up the form. “I can’t serve papers unless he is a relative or a romantic partner!” Then he pulls out a dinky half-sheet form. On the brink of being annoyed, “Ok, tell me what happened.”

He writes a little narrative: Trespassing, loitering, sleeping on property without owner’s permission, leaving trash on property, damaged property, verbal threat, shows up at my workplace every day.

“Here is your police report number.”

I return home around 11:45 p.m. It’s only Monday. I don’t know how people do this if they had to rely on public transportation.

Shoot. I should have just fibbed and said Shihiem was my boyfriend. Maybe that would have sped up the paperwork. Just kidding.

Only as an urban resident — Ep. 6

Only as an urban resident — Ep. 5

On Monday, my coworkers advise me to keep calling the cops. And perhaps I could file a restraining order against Shihiem (PFA = protection from abuse, or “stay away” order), because I felt threatened by him, even if just for an instant. I’m like, meh.

After dinner downtown, I walk home from the train stop. I see Shihiem sitting on my porch with his socks and shoes all over the place. “Shihiem, I’m sorry, you can’t stay here.”


He puts on his pouty face. I try to gently and rationally explain the situation again. I take out my mace for the illusion of self defense. Nonchalantly he tells me, “Go ahead and mace me. If you do, I’ll get someone to come after you.” Rationally, I know that he doesn’t have anyone on his side right now, so that threat is likely void. But emotionally, I am nervous as to how this interaction could end, and I am thankful I have health and disability insurance. I raise my voice:

GET OFF MY [email protected]#$%& PORCH!!!”

About 10 of my neighbours turn their heads. My angry outside voice is not even as loud or dramatic as most of their normal inside voices. But they heard me, partly because they had never heard me use the F-word. “We been known there be somethin’ wrong, coz we ain’t never heard Amy talk like THAT.” I sin and fall short of the glory of God. Yassir walks down from three houses over to investigate my problem.

Yassir: Yo, you gotta leave, man. You don’t want to go to jail.

Shihiem: (with attitude) I don’t care. I’ve been to jail.

Yassir: (scoffingly) Pssh! Yeah, you’ve been to juvie.

Shihiem: (with more attitude) No. I’m 19. I’ve been to real jail.

Yassir: (even more scoffingly) Heh. Yeah right, like municipal jail. I’ve been to REAL jail, and you DON’T wanna go there, n***A!

Shihiem stays planted on my steps. My neighbours tell me to call the cops. I say, “Excuse me,” walk past Shihiem, enter my house, and then think about calling the cops again. But first, I cry. I rarely cry.

I cried because I was sleep deprived. I cried in fear about how my goofy and loving, but well-educated and financially stable Taiwanese family would potentially react to this story. I cried for everyone in my community who tried so hard to help Shihiem, and everyone else who thought they were foolish for helping a “lost cause”. I cried for all the marginalized people that Shihiem represents for whom Jesus cares: young men of colour, the poor, the homeless, the mentally ill, the ex-cons, the abused foster child. I cried because I knew I wasn’t the One responsible to truly change others in need and to make things grow, but the fact that this friendship turned awry made it difficult for me to desire helping others in the future. I also cried because I was thankful for my neighbours who had my back, even when the cops didn’t come.

Only as an urban resident — Ep. 5

Only as an urban resident

Last month there was a homeless teenager sleeping on my porch.

There is a lot of background to this story, which maybe I will explain in future posts, like episodes 1, 2, 3 of Star Wars or something.

For now, the dénouement to this saga (Episode 4):

On Friday morning I find a dirty sheet, some food trash, and a polo shirt on my porch. I put everything in a trash bag and leave it on the porch before going to work. When I come home in the evening, I notice the shirt is gone.

On Saturday morning, I find Shihiem sleeping on my porch, wearing the aforementioned polo shirt, wrapped in the aforementioned non-laundered sheet. I say, “Good morning, Shihiem”, then poke him on the shoulder with my index finger. “Hey! You’re not allowed to sleep on my porch! Please pick up your trash. I’m going to work now. See ya.” He hears me, but pretends to sleep.

On Saturday afternoon, my porch is even messier. The weekly circular was opened from the bag. There are grocery store ads and coupons everywhere. A pair of disheveled socks rests on the steps. No Shihiem in sight. I put everything in the trash bag and enter the house. On my way out to dinner, Shihiem is on the porch again. “Hey, Shihiem, you can’t stay on my porch. And you can’t leave all your stuff all over the place. Please clean up before you leave.” He rolls his eyes.

After dinner, I come back home and find Shihiem standing on the porch, leaning on the railing, which he damaged that week while doing cartwheels off of it. Parkour is really popular ’round here. “Shihiem, you gotta leave, please. It’s not best for you to stay here.” I am having flashbacks of Carl Winslow having a heart attack. I bring out my nunchucks for the illusion of self defense. My next door neighbours are having a party on their porch. Lots of interesting looks being exchanged. Eventually he leaves.

On Sunday evening, he returns. He knocks several times. Sometimes I answer. Sometimes I don’t. I try to have gentle, rational and edifying conversation with him. He doesn’t understand. He lies down on the porch, pulls his shirt over his face and pretends to sleep. I bring out my 9-iron for the illusion of self defense. I lightly tap him on his polo shirt-covered head with my golf club handle. Shihiem mutters, “Don’t touch me,” then starts breathing heavily through his teeth. For a split second I feel threatened, but I am more worried I might morph into crazy saber-toothed tiger mom and channel my pre-anger management past.

“Shihiem, I’m going to call the cops.”

“Do what you gotta do.”

I call 911. They tell me they will send someone over to my address.

It shouldn’t take long because I see cops around here all the time. Right?

No one comes.

Only as an urban resident