This article was published by KIRO 7 on July 1, 2016
SEATTLE – “I can understand that their brains just don’t work quite right,” Marta Sloan makes her challenge sound uncomplicated. It is not.
There is nothing simple about talking to her clients, including one often belligerent woman who totes a hammer and baseball bat– a woman with deep mental health and addiction issues.
But that is the kind of person who routinely receives respect and care from Marta at the Downtown Seattle Association Outreach Office. Marta is a mental health counselor for the city’s homeless.
“She disarms them,” co-worker Jackie St. Louis says of Marta. “She makes them feel comfortable and accepted.”
Marta is petite. She is spiritual, and she is sweet. But as her dad says, it’s also “really good she’s stubborn.” You need to be able to believe you can help mentally ill people get off the streets. It can take months. Years. Some people never turn the corner.
But they know Marta has a vision of hope. Even if she can’t see.
“Maybe because of my blindness, people don’t think I’m looking down on them.” Marta’s brain doesn’t work quite right either.
When she was a kid, she had bad doctors. Her family found a good one when she was 13. He pinpointed her previously undiagnosed problem: a tumor that had grown to be one-third the size of her brain.
A surgeon got it out, but her sight went too. Even if you shined a light right into her eye, she’d never know it. But, talk about someone who finds the bright side.
“I think it’s because of the challenges I’ve had that I can do what I do. We all have difficulties in life. We can work through them.”
She gets her clients to talk about the abuse they’ve suffered and the pain they’ve inflicted. They take steps toward becoming whole.
To many, these people are invisible. But when others give up hope, Marta has faith. She can see a future.
This #SeattleAntifreeze project is dedicated to telling stories about people who break our area’s reputation for being chilly to strangers (a phenomenon known as the “Seattle Freeze”).
If you know of a story that should be told, please let me know.