Street Stories

Weblog of Seattle minister to the homeless Rick Reynolds, Operation Nightwatch

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Location: Seattle, Washington, United States

Caring for human beings seems like the best use of my time, homeless or not.

Friday, December 08, 2017

Move On

I’m curious about what kind of society we want, after my interaction last night with a homeless woman.

Her husband is on dialysis. He lost his job, because of this. Which meant they lost their place to live. And so they wait. It will take several months to get any disability, and who in the world will rent to them with such limited income, and a black hole in their rental record?

I have heard neighborhood people say, “If you can’t afford to live here, you should just move.” But I wonder if that’s even possible if you’ve lost everything, and your entire support base (ie family, friends, former co-workers) are here. How does a middle-aged couple with health problems and bad rental history get the resources to move to another, cheaper part of the country? The obstacles are real, even if the person is inclined to try to move.

Imagine moving to a cold weather community in the middle of winter? Yes, rent is cheaper in Sioux City, but it is also in the low 20s tonight. If you can’t find anything to rent there, you will die. Now add kidney dialysis three times a week to the mix of things you must do to stay alive. “Just move” is not a solution for most homeless people.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Thanksgiving Eve

 It’s a time of preparation for Turkey Day, but on this rainy Thanksgiving Eve, Camp United We Stand is suffering. They moved to their current location at St. Dunstan’s Episcopal Church in Shoreline, Washington on Saturday November 18.

It’s a small camp – 30 people roughly. Of these many are profoundly disabled – older folks, and people with mobility issues. It seems like it would be an easy thing to pack up your gear and move. Despite the reduced belongings, this is an ordeal – bedding, tent, clothes and other belongings. Each tent sits on top of several wooden pallets, with plywood nailed on top of that. There were multiple trips to the dump. Some of the people could barely do anything to help with camp move. And there weren’t any volunteers from the community there to help.

Meanwhile, I heard that 300 Seattle Pacific University students were signed up to assist Tent City 3 with their move on the same day.

One good thing. I’ve heard rumors that St. Dunstan’s will allow for a 90-day extension. The camp can stay put for six months this time, not just three months.

Any Shoreline-area churches interested in hosting the camp starting in May, 2018? 

Monday, November 13, 2017


Friday night was momentous. We finally were able to open our new shelter, located at the University Friends Meeting.

Things on the weekend started slow. It's a long bus ride. People weren't sure where to go. But it will pick up and soon we will be at capacity. We have room for 40 while we wait for the new bunk beds to be delivered. This will increase the capacity to 50 - the max for this space. Any more people than this and you have to install sprinklers and other things.

We are so thankful to be able to provide this space. Most the costs are being born by Nightwatch, so if you can help us out - any amount - it would be great. click here to donate

Thursday, October 26, 2017

That smile!

I noticed a homeless guy last week. We were moving mats out of storage into a big rental truck, and something about it struck him funny. Maybe because we were a rag-tag group, and not the usual types for manual labor.

I could tell we had struck a funny-bone moment, and said something to him. It was a pleasant exchange.

Then he was back in a doorway this week. Not doing anything, not camping out. Just hanging. I said hi on the way in, and he smiled and responded. You can tell a lot about people when they look you in the eye and smile.

Anyway, as I was leaving to go home, he was still there, so I decided to engage with him a little bit. Just fifteen minutes - telling his story, and his plight. A common name, and it's tough to get your ID replaced under those circumstances. And maybe something else is going on with him, but he talked about his family - his kids are up here, and he's in contact with his dad, and then the tears started to flow.

He recovered pretty quickly, but how could you not feel for someone like that - tender-hearted, strong family motivation.

Without him asking, I gave him a few bucks. He used it to get inside in a local hostel. The next day I connected him with Ben to work on the ID replacement. Hopefully, we can start moving him to the next stage, whatever that is. With ID he can maybe find some work, at least enough to not fall into despair like so many.

Friday, September 29, 2017


When I first started working with homeless people, I’d see them sleeping in the weirdest places and times. Sitting in a chair in a crowded noisy well-lit room. Flopped on the grassy parking strip, like today.
One guy was laying down in the middle of an alley in the hot sun in Belltown.  “Buddy” I yelled at him. “Are you okay?”
He lifted his head off the pavement. “Yeah, I’m just fine,” he said, then lay his head back down. But I saw the giant warm wad of gum tangled in his hair, and knew that he was that fine.
But today, there was a youngish woman alongside the Nightwatch building. She did not look to be in any great distress, and she had taken some care to lay down with her things next to her, much like someone might do on a sunny day in a park. She was sleeping and breathing comfortably, so I didn’t really think much about it.
But God bless one of our Nightwatch senior residents. He nudged her and asked if she was okay. “Just hungry, that’s all,” she told him. He brought her some treats from his room, she sat up, ate a bit and was on her way.
Now I’m feeling ashamed. But thankful for our senior tenant’s concern.