EVERETT, Washington— Within 60 seconds of pulling into a supermarket car park, Tyson Tungate was approached by a man looking for drugs.
“I’m clean and sober, brother,” Tungate said to another man who was stumbling toward him across the sidewalk. “You can do that too,” he encouraged a woman who was piling garbage bags and blankets into a shopping cart.
CRIME TURNED PORTLAND INTO A HOLLOWED OUT SHELL. HIS NEIGHBORS ARE TRYING TO PREVENT THIS FROM HAPPENING TO THEM
Tungate’s sister found him a few weeks earlier on the same property, a hangout for drug dealers, addicts, and the homeless. He weighed 115 pounds, shifted from side to side when she tried to speak to him, and was shaking under layers of hoodies.
“I was a walking skeleton,” said Tungate, 33. “It was shocking that I was like this and I didn’t think there was anything wrong with me.”
Now 60 days sober, he is navigating the recovery system in a state where the addiction and homelessness crises are unfolding in full force.
MOTHER OF FENTANYL CRISIS VICTIM LOOKS AT BIDEN ADMIN WHILE DRUGS ARE INSERTED INTO US: ‘HARD TO GET PEOPLE LISTENING’
Tungate and his half-sister Jacquelin Hernandez grew up separated after their mother abandoned their father.
“My mother’s family site is all Christian,” Hernandez told Fox News. “They’re all sober and all kind of stuck together, no dysfunction. And my father’s side was the opposite. They were all dysfunctional alcoholics, drug addicts.”
Tungate grew up calling the local bar whenever he needed to speak to his father. He started smoking pot in high school, a habit that soon led to OxyContin and then heroin abuse.
“The needle hit me,” he recalled, sitting in the living room of a clean and sober house. “I was stubborn and didn’t think I had a problem. I thought I could hide it. And I hid it pretty well for a while, until I started getting tracks.”
But he only became homeless when his mother kicked his older brother out.
“My brother would steal her money, steal pills from her,” he said. “I didn’t think it was right that he wasn’t in the house. So I went with him.”
A few years later, his mother died of an overdose. Her son spent his 20s flicking back and forth in prison.
WATCH: ADDICT RECOVERY WATCHING OVER 100 OVERDOSES RESCUED BY SISTER:
SEE MORE FOX NEWS DIGITAL ORIGINALS HERE
Washington has the fourth-largest homeless population in the country (25,211), surpassed only by California, New York and Florida, according to Housing and Urban Development 2022 estimates. It’s believed that about half of Washington’s homeless are homeless, and many — like Tungate — are stuck in a pattern of chronic homelessness.
Tungate said he was good at being a drug addict. He made sure his feet stayed free of infection and frostbite so he could move on to his next fix. He carried 12 blankets in his shopping cart so he could give away 11 to other people struggling to stay warm on the streets of Washington. And he often made more money for a few hours than he would on a 9-to-5 job.
“Washington is very gloomy. The streets are no joke,” he said. “I’ve seen things that other people should never see in their lives.”
Tungate estimates that he experienced more than 100 overdoses during his years on the road, including around 20 that were fatal.
Methamphetamine used to be the most common drug implicated in overdose deaths, according to the King County Medical Examiner’s Office. But in 2021, fentanyl exploded onto the scene.
“With this fentanyl nowadays, the Narcan, it doesn’t even touch it,” Tungate said. “It’s like useless. Sometimes you have to narcanize a person three or four times.”
OREGON LEGISLATORS CONSIDER CUTTING MILLIONS OF TRACKING SERVICES AFTER DRUG DECRIMINALIZATION
But late last year, Hernandez heard her brother was hanging out at a nearby grocery store. She had had limited contact with her son since the birth of her son some 12 years earlier.
“I just didn’t understand why nobody went out there and said anything to my brother,” she said. “He’s our family.”
She drove over to the store, found her brother and asked him if he wanted to get clean. Throughout his adult life, the answer to that question has been no. But now, with the fear that each high could be his last, he said yes.
“Family is power,” Tungate said. “I think my sister was sent over [God] to save me She’s like my guardian angel.”
Hernandez’s neighbor, a recovering addict who was also previously homeless, put her in touch with a man who helps people get treatment. Tungate went on a detox, then a 28-day inpatient treatment program.
He gained 60 pounds, regained his mental clarity and smile.
Inspired by the Tales from the Streets YouTube channel, Hernandez charted Tungate’s progress from day one. He hardly recognizes himself as he looks back at the first video.
CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP
“When I was in my addiction, I looked like I was pissed off all the time,” he said. “I now have a smile on my face everywhere.”
These days his dreams go beyond his next fix. He hopes to get a car, a house, a family, all “the normal things.” He is considering becoming be a counselor and help others get clean.
“No matter how bad your drug addiction is, you can overcome it,” he said. “If I could, I know you can.”