Saturday, December 8, 2018

Ho-Ho-Hobo Wreaths Tell Stories

Above: Ahmad, 26, makes a wreath at the Ho-Ho-Hobo holiday wreath stand at the tent city on the corner of State Avenue and Franklin Street

Ho-Ho-Hobo Wreaths Now Available 

By Janine Gates
Little Hollywood

Ho-Ho-Hobo is back! 

This year, the holiday wreath stand organized by Walker Stephens and other volunteers is located in a tent encampment on the corner of State Avenue and Franklin Street in downtown Olympia.

Wreaths are available for a sliding scale donation starting at $20. Each wreath, some classic, some funky, has a tag with the name of the person who made it. 

Stephens hung out near the stand and explained the concept: $5.00 goes immediately toward the person who made it, $5.00 goes toward the person who sells it, $5.00 goes toward Stephens gas and wreath-making supplies, and the rest goes into a community pot. 

At a meeting held weekly on Wednesdays, 3:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m. at 115 Legion Way SW, everyone decides as a group what to do with the extra funds. The meeting is open to everyone regardless of previous involvement or housing status.

Each wreath tells a story. Sometimes, the person is there to tell it in their own voice.

Ahmad, 26, has been homeless for a few months. He has lived in Olympia since he was 11.

“I’m a slacker, a freeloader, but I do need help. I’ve had close calls and eye-opening situations,” he says, working on a wreath at the Ho-Ho-Hobo wreath making stand.

He allowed Little Hollywood to tell his story because he thought it would help others.

Spelling his name, Ahmad says his name is Muslim.

“I still have yet to find myself in a religion, but I believe in a Father/God/Mother  Nature. We are like gods and nature. I actually think there’s two – not just one.”

“I dabble, I use, I’m a smoker,” he volunteers in the next sentence, his voice soft.

“I was looking for a place to stay between the (Union Gospel) Mission and the Salvation Army...sometimes you don’t have the energy in the cold weather. It’s freezing. If you’re not prepared for it, it can take quite a bit of a toll on you. Someone died over there you know,” he said, pointing to the tent where a woman with health issues lived and died last Sunday.

Like many downtown residents, he discovered the tent encampment to be something of a haven. Like a city, it’s a community. While we spoke, people were coming and going, checking in with each other.

“This kind of stuff (the bustle of activity) is perfect because it shows you a way to hustle with the bare necessities. We can make music. We can use this parking lot for haircuts and things that could get people more income. It generates a lot of ideas. Everyone here has their story. Different walks of life in here, you’d get different responses. I haven’t been here that long….

When asked what happened, Ahmed said he got kicked out of the house by his mom in July. He had a tent, but he gave it away to someone he said needed it more than he did. Ahmad is staying with a friend.

“Then I got in trouble at Walmart for shoplifting. I tried to go back home but my mom and I didn’t agree. She’s at that stage in her life – she’s reaching a time limit, like, if you don’t get certain things done, that’s going to affect other things. The world has changed in the 26 years since I’ve been born, and we see things differently.

“She’s done some things that I’m not very familiar with – she works two jobs, she raised me by herself and I always saw her as a strong woman until I started getting in trouble with the law. She didn’t really know certain things that I was doing, and our communication was affected by it. 

“She never told me that she took out mortgages and loans for her house, so her house went into foreclosure and she’s looking at going out into the streets. This is what she’s experiencing. When the real estate owner took it under his name, we weren’t able to stay there any longer,” Ahmad said, his thoughts drifting away.

“She wants me to be the best I can be,” he added after a long pause.

Little Hollywood asked him if she knows where he is. He said yes, but he hasn’t spoken with her. He has spoken with his sister who brought him clothes.

“That’s what made me rethink where I’m at because they gave me a few things.”

Asked if he knows how to get services, he says he does. He said he is eating and has a place to stay at the camp.

“I just get bored. I’m able to work. I’m able-bodied…. I can pretty much do anything,” he said. 

watched him choose cedar boughs and holly for the wreath and slowly wrap wire around them.

You look like you are creative, I said, and meant it.

“I’ve done landscaping - a little bit of everything. I like working with my hands. I want to go to school and get a degree in engineering, like mechanical engineering. I want to build machines. That would be cool,“ he smiled.

“I believe in fate and right now God or whoever is up there is making it work,” Ahmad said, continuing to make the wreath. “I usually don’t talk so much.” 

Above: Ahmad is almost finished with his wreath.

Holiday Wreath Supplies Needed

Ho-Ho-Hobo is accepting donations of markers, ribbons, materials for name tags, plastic ornaments and miscellaneous, beautiful and funky decorations for decorating wreaths. 

Supplies can be dropped off at the red Ho-Ho-Hobo booth in the tent city on the corner of State Avenue and Franklin Street. The booth is open from 10:00 a.m. until dark every day except Wednesdays. 

Other wreath vending locations are being planned by organizers. 

On Saturday, a Ho-Ho-Hobo booth did brisk business outside the Capitol Theater during the annual Duck-the-Malls holiday bazaar.

“We earned $450 today outside Duck the Malls - a record! Thats after paying out $180 to our sales team and the folks who made all those wreaths! Stephens reported after the event.

As for the name Ho-Ho-Hobo, the name was created by and for the street community who make the holiday wreaths with love and humor.

Someone working on a wreath burst into laughter when Stephens added, The only people who complain about the name are housed people.  

For a previous story about the Ho-Ho-Hobo wreath stand, go to 

Above: Wreaths are available by donation at the Ho-Ho-Hobo wreath stand in the tent city at the corner of State Avenue and Franklin Street.