LYNNWOOD, Wash. — Robert Smiley has learned that the hardest work happens out of sight.
It’s true of his team that cleaned up a homeless camp hidden in a wooded patch of Lynnwood Saturday, and true in his personal life as well.
“Spent most of my life in prison, all I knew was drinking and drugging,” he said.
When he finally got clean, he founded The Hand Up Project – to try and give people battling addiction and homelessness the tools to help themselves.
The group goes into camps to connect people with shelter and services, and cleans the camps up as well.
“This is night and day,” he said looking at the Lynnwood camp.
Noah Haggerty was part of the team that cleaned it. He was just released from treatment for addiction.
“I have a lot of wreckage,” he said. “Just my way to clean it up today.”
He talked about living unsheltered at a camp in Seattle, and now, working to help others.
“I think it’s the only way to do it,” he said. “Be in service. Keeps me outside myself.”
But cleaning camps and connecting people is only part of the mission. It’s also about setting an example of recovery.
"People talk out here,” Smiley said. “And when they hear someone's camp got raided, couple of them got into detox, then got out and are doing cleanups – they realize it can be done. And people aren't going to give up on them.”