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Originally published Tuesday, February 24, 2009 at 12:00 AM

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Nicole Brodeur

Harder to find our soft spot

Bone against bone. hat's how Susan Fox explained readers' negative reaction to my column last week about Jamee, a 30-year-old mortgage broker with a six-figure income who lost everything and moved into the Jubilee Women's Center in Seattle.

Seattle Times staff columnist

Bone against bone.

That's how Susan Fox explained readers' negative reaction to my column last week about Jamee, a 30-year-old mortgage broker with a six-figure income who lost everything and moved into the Jubilee Women's Center in Seattle.

The column was an attempt to show how easy it is to get sucked under by the ongoing economic tsunami. Here was a young woman free of addiction or abuse, who owned a home and a BMW and worked in an office.

In the span of a few months, she lost it all and found herself homeless.

Fox, the executive director of Jubilee, is seeing more women like her all the time.

Readers saw something else.

"She was a predator," one commented on The Seattle Times Web site. "She was in the middle of the mess. ... People like her disgust me."

Said another: "At first one sees a prominent woman, but under the surface there is nothing but a gambler who lost. Now she's among the very people that she shunned and ignored."

Looks to me like our compassion is simply tapped out. We don't have much of a soft spot for others when we are struggling to stay afloat ourselves.

"Bone against bone," Fox called it. No cushion. No love.

It didn't help that Jamee is a mortgage broker, considered by many to be key players in the nation's financial woes.

Fox thinks we're better than what she's read in the comments.

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"There's no question that people are scared, people are afraid and people are angry," she said.

And as for the mortgage crisis, "It's criminal what happened.

"But to be angry and resentful toward people working to make their life better is tragic."

People are, by nature, good, Fox said. They want to succeed. And if people would move their thoughts in that direction, she said, then they will see more of it in the world.

Whatever reasons are behind Jamee's troubles, "She is making a go of it and doing well," Fox said. "This needs to be a time of support."

Some readers ventured into the invective to say as much.

"I refuse ... to beat this woman down," one reader wrote. "I bet she's done that enough herself."

Said another: "Those readers who think they are immune may find themselves at a shelter one day. I'm ... retired and have seen my circumstances change drastically in the last five years, and I was careful with my finances and investments."

Fox uses herself as the best argument for compassion. She had a master's degree and a job in the U.S. Senate when she fled an abusive relationship. She couch-surfed, then was homeless like Jamee and the other women at Jubilee.

"Most people do not seek out transitional housing unless they need it," Fox said. "They want to live independently, not with a bunch of other homeless women they don't know."

I'm sure we want them to succeed.

It's how they fell that riles us, that taps into the worst of us, in the worst of times.

Nicole Brodeur's column appears Tuesday and Friday. Reach her at 206-464-2334 or nbrodeur@seattletimes.com.

No wonder she brown-bags.

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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About Nicole Brodeur

My column is more a conversation with readers than a spouting of my own views. I like to think that, in writing, I lay down a bridge between readers and me. It is as much their space as mine. And it is a place to tell the stories that, otherwise, may not get into the paper.
nbrodeur@seattletimes.com | 206-464-2334

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