Homelessness: Profile of a man

Cecil Baker, Jr., making good decisions


Note to Reader:  You are about to read one homeless man’s account of why he is homeless.  This individual consented to the interview and could refuse to answer any questions. This is his story; take it as you will.

On a recent hot August afternoon, a number of homeless individuals had retreated about 30 yards into the west end of the 7th Avenue Tunnel to escape the heat.  Sitting on a train track amidst the trash and graffiti-covered walls was Cecil Baker, Jr.

“I’m here because I continue to make bad decisions, particularly when it comes to opiates,” he began as he held a butane lighter in one hand and a metal pipe filled with marijuana in the other, “and because of that I’ve been homeless since July 8, 2022.”

He went on to say that he had been born 34 years ago at Providence St. Peter Hospital, had grown up on College Street in Lacey, and had graduated from Tenino High School in 2009.

“Both of my parents served in the military,” he continued.  “My dad is a retired Army Ranger, and my mom is a retired sailor who now works at Joint Base Lewis-McChord as a logistician.”

After graduation, Baker married and began to attend Centralia Community College with the goal of becoming a power station technician.  He also said that he has a talent for carpentry.

“While in college, I was in a car accident,” he continued, “and my injuries led to my use of pain-killers, and I began to self-medicate.  That’s when my drug use began.”

By early 2010, Baker was struggling with his growing addiction to pain-killers.  So too was his wife, who eventually passed away due to a heroin overdose.

“I decided to clean up,” Baker continued. For the next four years, he worked as a journeyman carpenter and managed to steer clear of drug usage.   

“I can clean up pretty well when I want to; my problem is staying cleaned up,” he added.

He relapsed in 2014 and soon found himself living on the streets of Olympia or in the Thurston County Jail.

“I received an eight-month sentence in 2020 for vehicular assault,” he said.  “I was under the influence of drugs and I hit and injured a woman and her little boy.”

After his release from jail in 2021, Baker found employment working in construction, namely custom framing.

“It was a great job; I worked on some really nice homes,” he related.  “But then in July 2022, I got into trouble due to my addiction.”

Needing money to pay for drugs, Baker burglarized a business and was caught in the act.  “I am not a very good criminal, and the Thurston County sheriffs are very good at their jobs,” he said.

He added that he pleaded guilty to possession of stolen goods and was released pending an arrangement with Friendship Diversion Services, a contract agency that works with prosecutors in some jurisdictions to provide jail and sentencing alternatives for some criminal court defendants.

“I have to wear an electronic monitoring device, show up for urine testing once a week, and check in at the Thurston County Jail,” said Baker.  He added that he has to pay all costs associated with the monitoring and testing.

“But I am looking forward to this,” he concluded, “because I want to go get my life back.”

JM Simpson - jm@theJOLTnews.com - is a veteran photojournalist who lives in Lacey. 


2 comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here

  • Bigjules

    ‘Friendship Diversion Services’, what a great alternative to the person and to the community.

    Thank you for reporting.

    Tuesday, September 12, 2023 Report this

  • WayTooOld

    Thank you for continuing to shine a light on the individuals who make up our homeless population.

    Thursday, September 14, 2023 Report this