In the middle of a wooded lot on North Whidbey, it looks like a giant tornado picked up a house, shook all the contents out and then flung the building far, far away.
A trail, illuminated at night by makeshift lights, leads through the trees to a ghostly specter hung up to scare away thieves. The Halloween decoration guards a giant assortment of household items heaped into the woods.
There’s furniture, children’s toys, potted plants, moldy clothing, a soggy coin collection, a nail polishing kit, a baseball bat, a stop sign, dishes, holiday decorations, boxes and bags galore.
Three people, left homeless in a home foreclosure, have been living for weeks in a tiny motorhome — stuffed full of the basic necessities of life — parked in the middle of the woods, surrounded by the piles of belongings.
Bridget McBride-Lamoureux has the ultimate hard-luck story. For now, she calls the cramped vehicle home, along with her fiance and her ailing mother, who has to be on oxygen at all times.
“Boy, when it rains it pours,” McBride-Lamoureux said, looking around at the disorder. “I pissed someone off somewhere, or I just had a run of really bad luck.”
On the neighboring lot sits a manufactured home that she lived in for 13 years, until she fell on hard times and missed mortgage payments. The bank foreclosed on her and deputies evicted the family last month. They are no longer allowed to set foot on her former property.
Island County Sheriff Mark Brown said the situation is “a mess” that his deputies got drawn into as enforcers of court orders.
“They’re living out of a motorhome with no septic and no running water,” he said. “How do things get to this point?”
Monday, the bank hired people to get all of McBride-Lamoureux’s belongings out of the house and off the land. By Thursday, the work crew had just scratched the surface. Originally, the plan was to move everything to the nearest public right-of-way, which means it would be stacked on the side of the road. But McBride-Lamoureux got permission from the person who owns the adjoining lot to put all the stuff there.
McBride-Lamoureux, a mother of two boys, is angry at a lot of people, most notably deputies with the Island County Sheriff’s Office. She’s a fast-talking, emotional person who’s no stranger to confrontation. She admits that she’s facing a half dozen misdemeanor charges and missed court dates, but she has explanations for everything.
“People take me the wrong way,” she said. “What I say has no sugar coating.”
While many folks say she brought the troubles on herself, she describes a tale of bad fortune compounded by bad decisions, snowballing into disaster. More than a year ago, McBride-Lamoureux was injured at her job at a beverage distributor. She claims she was unjustly fired, which put a strain on her relationship with her husband. He left last April.
Her mother, who lives with her, collapsed and ended up in the ER. She was diagnosed with emphysema, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; she has to breathe oxygen from a machine 24 hours a day.
In the midst of arguing with her bank about mysterious fees and a bounced check, McBride-Lamoureux missed several payments and ended up being foreclosed on. She claimed that she had an agreement with the bank in which she would get all her belongings off the property — including several junk cars — by the end of May and they would pay her $5,000.
But on May 23, deputies showed up and told everyone to get out. McBride-Lamoureux and her fiancée, Frank Torres, hurried to dump belongings onto the side of the road, where they could retrieve them later.
“I was running, I was sweating, I was crying,” she said.
The long-time Whidbey resident claims that the three deputies who showed up and “stood around laughing” were needlessly rude. She overheard one of them say that they should take a match to all the junk.
In the midst of the chaos, her young son came home from school. He helped his mother, filling a plastic bin with his and his brother’s favorite toys and dumping them over the fence. She said it was a heartbreaking sight.
Soon after, the two boys went to live with their father.
“They are anxious to get back home with me,” she said.
Having been literally thrown out on the road, McBride-Lamoureux, her mother, Marilyn McBride, and Torres lived in a motorhome parked on the property next door, where they had the owner’s permission to stay. She admits that she and Torres returned to the forbidden property many times to collect belongings, but they thought they had approval to be there.
The Sheriff’s Office reported receiving complaints from many of the neighbors about all the junk piled along and spilling into the private road.
Deputies caught McBride-Lamoureux and Torres at least a couple times inside the house, including one occasion when they arrested her on warrants. Another time, four deputies arrested the couple for trespassing. A deputy told her mother, who was inside the motorhome parked on the edge of the wooded lot, that she had to leave also. McBride-Lamoureux said she tried to explain that they had permission from the landowner and that her mother was on oxygen, but the deputy wouldn’t relent.
“I told him, ‘My mother’s life is in your hands,’” she said.
The older woman drove away with her battery-operated oxygen unit. McBride-Lamoureux and Torres, after being booked and released, found her later that night parked in the Safeway lot, nearly out of oxygen.
For now, McBride-Lamoureux said the ragtag family is going to continue camping out in order to watch over her belongings as the piles continue to grow. She said many things have already been stolen or broken.
“I’m making the best of what we have,” she said. “It doesn’t cost anything to stay out here.”
They eventually hope to move into a rental on acreage owned by a kindly man who may let them work off some of the rent by painting, fixing, pulling weeds and mowing. She’s been through a terrible depression, but she has faith that things will get better.
“They say you can’t get to the rainbow without going through the rain first,” she said.