Last weekend, while visiting Seattle with her sisters and son, Sen. Lisa Brown lost her purse. All her credit cards, her ID, gone.
Except that they weren’t. That Saturday, a woman named Dorenia Cater, who’s been homeless on the streets of Seattle for five years, found Brown’s small purse near a trash can on the sidewalk outside a Starbucks.
Cater peered inside, and saw credit cards and Brown’s legislative business card.
Cater carried the purse to safety at the YWCA women’s shelter, and she began working the phones. She called hotels. She called airlines. She tried calling the toll-free legislative hotline, but the shelter phones don’t allow 1-800 calls.
After a weekend of dead-ends, she took the purse to shelter director Laura Clark, who tracked Brown down in Olympia. Brown, a Spokane Democrat, was startled and touched.
“Sometimes we form stereotypes about individuals who are homeless,” she said. “I’m tremendously moved by her generosity of spirit.”
She took down Cater’s name and address, intending to send a thank-you note, then decided that wasn’t enough. Brown’s going to Seattle Monday to meet Cater, give her a reward and thank her in person. Brown also took up a collection for a donation to the shelter, which has a particular need for — no surprise — telephone calling cards. (The YWCA Emergency Shelter, 1118 Fifth Ave., Seattle, WA 98101.)
Cater, who at 46 is the same age as Brown, will soon be running into the shelter’s 45-day limit on stays. Clark said the shelter’s working on getting her a longer-term place to stay.
Sen. Adam Kline, D-Seattle, said he wasn’t surprised by Cater’s efforts.
“I know there’s a tendency to bash Seattle, and that it’s a little liberal for some folks. I get that,” he said. “But it’s a damn nice place, and an honest place.”