Jack Parks is not a politically correct kind of guy. He chuckles at the term “identify as homeless.”
To him, homelessness is not something you identify as. It’s something you either are or you aren’t.
And Parks is.
The 37-year-old said he’s been homeless for the past seven or eight months, after a job-related injury prevented him from working and he went on disability.
Parks said that while it’s true he is homeless, you wouldn’t be able to tell that by looking at him. He has clean clothes and he uses a gym membership to exercise and shower every day.
He also hates the word vigilante, though it’s understandable why people think of one when they hear his story.
Although he is homeless, he doesn’t let that deter him from trying to make Federal Way a safer place.
He doesn’t like criminals, thieves or addicts, so he spends a lot of his spare time looking out for this kind of activity.
As an example, when he’s at a store and he sees someone acting suspicious or outright sees them steal something, he’ll walk right behind them while calling himself their “personal shopper.”
He said he knows some people will call this harassment, but he doesn’t really care what people think.
Because the people he’s following around the stores leave right after he does this, usually without any stolen goods.
Parks said he decided to start doing this because he doesn’t like the crime that’s been going on, and he wants to show people it’s an issue they can try to combat too.
“Sometimes you have to take a step back and say, what can be done to fix this?” said Parks, who was nominated for the Mirror’s Citizen of the Month for March. “On the [Federal Way Community Watch] page all I really saw was complaining… the fact that they say they can’t do anything is BS and that’s kinda what I want to get drilled into their head.”
Parks’ nomination came from community members on the Federal Way Community Watch page who like how he’s taking on the criminal side of homelessness.
Federal Way resident Craig Patrick, who was one of 14 people who nominated Parks, said he goes out of his way to try and educate the public about the differences between homeless addicts and drug-free homeless people.
“Jack works to inform the community of people who are putting others at risk,” Patrick said. “He will use social media to let people know to stay away from certain areas because of out of control individuals who are struggling and making it unsafe.”
Parks doesn’t think of himself as going out of his way to educate people though. He’s doing this because it’s the right thing to do, he said.
The education he wants to come from this is what citizens can do aside from calling the police.
He said one option is to give the plate number to 911 of any suspicious cars people might see around to determine if its stolen.
Parks said he’s done this before when he sees suspicious looking vehicles parked and occupied.
“It’s not illegal to sit in your car, so that’s not a priority call,” he said. “So OK, run their tabs, are their tabs current? What other items do you see in the vehicle? Do you see that [the occupants] are actively shooting up?”
Parks said it’s about empowering people to do what they can for crime prevention in their community.
But he doesn’t consider himself an educator compared to others working around the homeless issue.
“I’m sure there are people in the community that are doing more than I am.”
Along with trying to prevent theft at stores in the community, Parks will also go to homeless encampments and take pictures of criminal activity such as used needles and stolen goods.
He said he sends these photos to Federal Way Code Enforcement to alert them to the areas so they can come in and clear them. Parks said if more people weren’t afraid to stand up to panhandlers and homeless people who are clearly doing something wrong, the issues wouldn’t be as large as they are today.
“If they are kicked off the property of every store they go to [here], then they won’t want to be here anymore.”
Parks said another reason he wants to encourage people to stand up to the criminal side of homelessness is the apparent lack of action from the government.
“If the government is not fulfilling their duty … then people have to step up and do it for themselves,” he said.
As for the Citizen of the Month nomination, Parks said he was surprised and also uncomfortable with so many people suggesting him for this award.
“I’ll take their admiration… to try and teach them or show them that it’s not anything special, it’s something that they could do.”
Jack Parks is a pseudonym. He asked that his real identity remain private due to the role he chooses to take on in the community.