Rebecca Twigg has won six world track cycling championships, 16 U.S championships and two Olympic medals, likely making her Seattle’s most decorated bike racer. Today, she is one of the more than 12,000 people experiencing homelessness in the Seattle area.
Twigg spoke with the Seattle Times’ Scott Greenstone about how her life, her troubles holding a consistent desk job after more than a decade as a pro racer in the 80s and 90s, and her hesitancy to accept help when there are so many thousands of other people who need access to an affordable home, too.
Twigg’s story poses far more questions and issues than it resolves. For one, it highlights the dramatic inequity between men’s and women’s professional racing. A man with these kinds of championships would be a millionaire, but she needed to seek out a day job as soon as she stopped racing following the 1996 Olympics.
Twigg, though, said she hoped her story could help people understand that folks become homeless for all kinds of different reasons. And her message is really important now more than ever, as an ugly anti-homeless sentiment seems to be growing among Seattle residents that paints everyone on the streets with the same dehumanizing brush.
From the Times:
Twigg, 56, agreed to share her story to convince the public that not all homeless people are addicted to drugs or alcohol; that there are many like her, who have struggled with employment and are “confused,” as she said she is, about what to do next with their lives. She did not want to discuss mental health but feels it should be treated more seriously in Washington.
“Some of the hard days are really painful when you’re training for racing,” Twigg said, “but being homeless, when you have little hope or knowledge of where the finish line is going to be, is just as hard.”
People sometimes justify their callous attitudes toward people experiencing homelessness by say, “Oh, they just don’t want to work hard.” Well, the amount of work and training it took to win those races and Olympic medals is unfathomable. And here is someone who was at times the fastest woman in the world telling us that the daily struggle to keep going on the streets is “just as hard.”
But she doesn’t want help just because she was once a bicycling champion, she told the Times:
“Shelters are great, but there has to be a next step,” Twigg said. She still won’t accept housing for herself, even when help is offered by people who’ve found out about her state; her homelessness was mentioned in a cycling magazine last month.
“The point is not so much that I need help, it’s that there are a bunch of people who need help — 12,000 in this area, half a million in the country,” Twigg said. “Help should be provided for everybody, not just a few.”
Thank you, Rebecca, for sharing your story. I wish you well.