Charles Woodson was behind on his bills before his heart stopped.

More than three months after doctor’s saved his life, the 64-year-old Queen Anne resident’s situation hasn’t improved.

Woodson went into cardiac arrest on Sept. 11.

“I guess, from what I’m told, I was actually dead,” he said. “Someone gave me 15 minutes of CPR.”

Woodson spent the next two weeks on life support at UW Medicine, he said.

“They had called all my kids, and they were contemplating pulling my plug,” Woodson said. “I guess somewhere along the way I gave some kind of sign that God didn’t want me right now.”

Woodson has long been estranged from his grown children, having lived most of his life on the street, starting when he left home at age 9. He said he chose to be homeless rather than suffer in a dysfunctional and abusive family.

He worries his mounting bills and basic needs like food and clothing will result in him becoming homeless once again.

“I understand what it’s like to be on the street, and I was on the street from an early stage in life,” Woodson said.

He grew up in the Central District, and continued going to school after he ran away from home. He would wash his clothes at a laundry mat that no longer exists, a short distance from Madrona Elementary, and then go to school as if everything was fine, he said.

Between those early periods of homelessness, Woodson said, he was in and out of foster homes.

“The street was my life for a long time, but I still graduated from high school — graduated from Queen Anne in ’73, and I went on to college.”

Woodson tells Queen Anne News he has five children — all with different mothers. His son was born in March 1984, he said, the mother walking out on him and the infant.

“I became a single parent overnight,” Woodson said. “At that point, I started the role of a single parent.”

As someone who has had medical issues all his life, Woodson said he served on committees and helped write policies regarding disabled parking when governors John Spellman and Booth Gardener held office in the ‘80s and ‘90s.

“It was a wonderful experience,” Woodson said. “Governor Gardener invited me to the governor’s mansion for Christmas Eve dinner.”

He said he went on to chair Seattle Public School’s Head Start program for three years.

“I’m not saying that I’ve been a perfect picture,” Woodson said.

In the late ‘90s, Woodson said he lost custody of his son to his child’s mother.

“That was about it — that was the end of my world,” he said. “I went through depression so bad, I didn’t know what I was going to do.”

He received a degree in social and human services in 1999, he said, but missed graduation because he was doing a 90-day stint in jail for threatening the boyfriend of his son’s mother.

According to court records and Woodson, he spent much of his life after losing custody of his son in trouble with the law, in and out of jail for stealing.  After five years at Plymouth Housing’s Saint Charles Apartments, Woodson said he found himself homeless again.

“I wanted other people to hurt,” Woodson said. “I wanted other people to feel my pain.”

He said he turned himself into the King County Jail in 2015, “to clean my plate.”

“I did some time for Seattle, but I didn’t just do time for Seattle,” Woodson said.

He was arrested at the Bellevue Square Mall in January 2014 for stealing nearly $800 in clothes, , according to court records obtained by Queen Anne News.

In April 2013, Woodson stole clothes from a Macy’s in Redmond, but police had to delay their interview with him as his heart condition required him to be transported to the hospital. Loss prevention did question him, according to court records, and Woodson told them he stole the clothes to sell to other homeless people in order to check into a hotel room for the night.

Woodson had a run-in with Tukwila police on Halloween in 2011, after getting caught stealing two comforters valued at $700 each from the Macy’s at the Southcenter Mall. During a struggle with loss prevention, Woodson passed out and had to be transported to the hospital, according to court records.

These are just a few crimes Woodson has been charged with in the past nearly two decades.

He said things got better for him when he received shelter from Compass Housing Alliance at the Compass Blaine Center in Queen Anne.

“They became my second family,” Woodson said. “They were very supportive of me.”

And that’s when he said he went to King County Jail to pay for his crimes.

He found housing with the Seattle Housing Authority at Cal-Mor Circle in West Seattle, and then in June 2017 Woodson moved into SHA’s Queen Anne Heights, 1212 Queen Anne Ave. N.

“Things had been going well for me,” he said. “I had been putting my life back together.”

Then his heart failed him again.

Woodson calls it a miracle, and that God gave him a second chance at life.

“When he gave me my second chance at life, he forgot to take my bills away,” he said.

St. Vincent de Paul and the Queen Anne Helpline have helped Woodson with covering several months of rent, which he said is $180 a month. He receives $740 a month in social security, and the Coordinated Care insurance coverage he has through the state has covered his medical costs.

Queen Anne News met with Woodson on Dec. 14 at the Cherry Hill campus of Swedish Medical Center, where he’d been admitted two days prior because of water getting into his lungs. This was his third hospital stay for recurring health issues since Oct. 1.  

“I guess I should be fortunate the heart attack didn’t affect my brain,” he said.

Woodson contacted Queen Anne News looking for someone to tell his story, so he might be able to solicit help covering his bills, which he said are somewhere around $300.

“Being a failure is hard to accept for some people,” Woodson said, “and it was really hard to accept that I had failed myself.”

He said he’d rather people offer to help with the bills rather than give him money, and that he’ll share anything and everything anyone wants to know. He lives in Unit 405 at Queen Anne Heights, and he can be reached at 206-285-7444, if his phone is still connected.

Woodson was discharged from the hospital on Friday.

“I’m just going to go home and start praying again,” he said.