Andrew “Drew” Carey was a professional guitarist years ago, but now he is homeless.
Carey, 40, from Aberdeen, can no longer play like he used to, even though he still knows how to, because his fingers have lost their dexterity in recent years. They’ve lost their strength because Carey has been homeless since 2018. He used to live at the homeless encampment nicknamed “River City,” near the Chehalis River, but moved downtown in July 2019 when that area was closed.
While Carey lost most of his possessions during the flooding between Tuesday Jan. 4, and Thursday Jan. 6, that Grays Harbor County experienced, he was able to hold on to his dark green Epiphone acoustic guitar, which has only four working strings. He played a little bit on Friday morning, Jan. 7, before his fingers failed him.
From sleeping outside amid all the wind, rain, freezing air, flooding and other challenges weather puts on him and other homeless residents who live in “Tent City” behind Aberdeen City Hall, Carey sounded on Friday as though he was breaking.
He was in tears when asked how he’s doing.
“My life is terrible,” he said.
Carey said he lost all his blankets during the flood and that outside of his guitar, he just had the clothes on his back.
While he talked, another man approached him with a bright red bicycle that looked new, or maybe lightly used. Carey said no.
“Give it to someone who needs it,” he said.
Carey said he’s been at the camp, formerly known as TASL — Temporary Alternative Shelter Location — at the corner of East 1st Street and North I Street, off and on since the site was opened in July 2019. The camp is directly behind Aberdeen City Hall.
The camp has since been closed. Aberdeen City Council narrowly passed amendments in a 6-5 vote to its camping ordinance on Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021, The Daily World reported in November. The amendments added a misdemeanor offense for those refusing to remove camps from city property that are not designed for camping.
Rick Sangder, public works director for the city of Aberdeen, said Monday, Jan. 10, the area where Carey and the other homeless residents live, is not a sanctioned camp.
“That camp is closed,” he said. “Those people are basically trespassing. That’s the city’s parking lot.”
Sangder said it’s in the city’s facilities plan to provide fencing for that parking lot in order to secure the parked cars there to help minimize catalytic converter thefts.
Carey also provided a glimpse into his life. He said he got electrocuted Thursday, Jan. 6, while walking along Broadway Avenue, which is located two blocks away, in front of Timberland Bank.
“We both stepped out into a puddle,” he said. “We were walking along (Broadway Avenue) on the Timberland Bank side. Right as we walked across the mouth of the alley… all of a sudden I couldn’t move.”
Carey said he heard a strange sound — he pronounced it with the phonetic spelling “ZLORP” — and then he was momentarily paralyzed.
“I couldn’t think or move,” he said. “All my muscles were clenched. And then the air was just like sizzling pain all around me. And then I lost consciousness. When I woke up, I was still standing up because all my muscles were still clenched.”
Carey said he couldn’t understand what was happening to him.
“I thought I was having a stroke or heart attack, or something like that,” he said. “And then all of a sudden I could move a little bit, so I stepped forward out of the puddle. It wasn’t until halfway down the block that I realized that I hadn’t had a stroke.”
While the encampment where Carey lives is now closed, the Aberdeen Police Department has a map of where Aberdeen’s homeless residents can stay. All someone has to do is go inside and request it.
There are at least 15 to 20 tents inside the now non-sanctioned encampment.
While Carey said the people there are bound together by common interests, he said in his deep voice that it’s also not a supportive place to live, all at the same time.
“It’s a really close, tight-knit community,” he said. “But also a really cut-throat “Mad Max” (place) where we screw each other over every day.”