The Homeless Husky: People Care About Tim Meamber

The former University of Washington and NFL linebacker contemplates how to leave his homeless situation of four years in Arlington, Washington.

Tim Meamber walks with a noticeable limp, favoring an ankle that badly needs surgery. He underwent a replacement procedure once, but it wasn't done right. Each step brings great discomfort.

Meamber was set to have the ankle repaired at a Seattle hospital two weeks ago, but his visit was canceled because his medicare insurance wouldn't cover the cost of another new hinge. 

The ankle is the least of his worries. 

Meamber, 57, is living as a homeless person in Arlington, Washington, sleeping in a truck next to his dog Mona, dealing with the chilly elements. He's done this for four years.  He has an assortment of serious health issues and a history of drug addiction.

Where he once turned up in newspaper headlines and on TV screens as a superlative University of Washington football player, he parks his vehicle in the Pilot Travel Center near the freeway or in an Interstate 5 rest area and tries not to be noticed.

"I know I can survive when most people can't, and I can make it look pretty easy -- it's a toughness thing," Meamber said bravely. "It's not fun, but it is life. I get used to it."

He once played in the Rose, Aloha and Orange bowls for the Huskies, and in the NFL for the Minnesota Vikings. These days, he frequents different food banks, looking for his next meal.

His income is a monthly $1,000 disability check, which falls well below the poverty level. To make sure it gets spent properly and not on illegal substances, Meamber has a friend, Paula Kooistra, dole it out to him. 

They met while she volunteered at a coffee stand in neighboring Smokey Point. Kooistra, a dental patient care coordinator and shown in the photo, is trying to help him find a  home and obtain new dentures. They've known each other for a year. She keeps close tabs on him.

"She's very special," Meamber said. "Some people come along in your life and it's not explainable. This is somebody sent from God."

Said Kooistra, "We hang out a lot. I want to get him into housing."

Meamber, who has a college degree in speech communications and was his class valedictorian at his California high school, once owned his own business. He invented and patented a snack food called Half Pops, which is half-cooked popcorn and still in the marketplace. 

He gave up his financial interest in Half Pops to resolve legal issues after an assault landed him in jail. He had to buy his way out of trouble. He beat up and severely injured a man who stole and totaled his car with all of his possessions in it, breaking bones in the guy's face. 

Meamber had been in fights before, brawling his way through drug houses. He's seen and done it all in this world, coming out of this existence with experience and knowledge that his friends say he actually could put to good use and share with others.

"Tim has a PhD, four of them, one from Harvard, Yale and a couple of other Ivy League schools, in the drug culture," former UW linebacker Joe Krakoski said facetiously to make a point. "He knows what works and what doesn't. Tim knows all the tricks that addicts do to manipulate their families. He should be writing books on this stuff. He should be on the radio."

Meamber, however, doesn't know comes next for him. He's aware he has to get that ankle fixed in order to work again. Yet he has Parkinson's disease, which affects his speech and causes him to twitch.

He also likely has chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a brain disease caused by head injuries frequently turning up in pro and college football players and leading to early death. 

Meamber points out how he played seven years of youth football and engaged in heavy contact well before entering puberty. He figures the game in its infant stages left him vulnerable to brain issues.

He wakes up every morning trying to plot a new course, if not invent and patent a new life. He wants to become a human Half Pops.

People want to help him out. Since Husky Maven/Sports Illustrated posted the first of four stories on Meamber, a Husky fan created a GoFundMe account to try and assist the former player. Former UW teammates have called him and arranged for upcoming meetings.

However, like other homeless people, the former UW and NFL player at times feels marginalized and cast aside by society. He's a little defiant about it. Yet he wants something better than he has. 

"The first thing I need to do is be productive," Meamber said. "But what is successful in our society? Some really good people have got caught up in some really bad (expletive). 

"Sometimes it's better to step back and get off the grid for a while."