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.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Hot Night on the Street

Ok, it's all relative.  Seattle is hot at 80 degrees.  It is the end of the month, more homeless people show up at the shelters.  People are cranky. 
So tonight one of our local politicians, Seattle City Councilperson Tom Rasmussen took a tour of my world.  What a guy!
Here's what he saw:
  • Volunteers at Nightwatch heating soup and setting out sandwiches.
  • A homeless family: Dad, mom (pregnant), and preschool kid, getting sent off to a cheap hotel room, and getting some good counsel on what to do tomorrow to get longer term help.
  • First Avenue Service Center, where the crew was mopping the floor and getting ready for the onslaught of homeless guys.
  • St. Martin de Porres shelter, where 200+ older men reside.

We got back to the Operation Nightwatch dispatch center, where homeless men and women were waiting to go out to shelter someplace around Seattle.  The heat caused tempers to flare.  Words exchanged, staff intervened.    No punches thrown, thank God. 

It's just too darn hot tonight.



My Night Out

Some homeless guy was walking across Interstate 5 Ship Canal Bridge at midnight tonight. He was carrying a bag, walking on the very crest of the bridge along the eastern side of the northbound lanes. I got off the freeway -- there are a ton of people walking around, just surviving the night -- no place to go, mentally ill, abandoned. On my way home I almost ran over some strung out homeless guy who was crossing against the light.

When are we going to provide help to people? How do we balance civil rights (ie not locking people up) but push them toward treatment?

Earlier Father Kim and I were in the neighborhood bar -- Targy's. I think half the people in there are Microsoft employees slumming it. New people always have to find out if there is some subtext to my being there, am I trying to convert people. (I just like the people there -- no ulterior motives).

One of the patrons, "Joe," was trying to get me to "get drunk." He's trying to convert me, I guess. I also met several nice Catholics.

Now, I don't really care about what brand people are. I am mistaken for a Catholic priest all the time. Do you care? I am Free Methodist, but I'm convinced God doesn't care.

I spent time chatting with "Mike." He was bright -- heading out to Asia to build houses for poor people next year. Another MS worker.

Hit Kelly's Bar -- new bartender "Frank" is really nice, came over and warned Father Kim and I about getting out of line. My friend "Ken" gave us all the bar gossip -- old bartender quit after her boyfriend was 86'd out of the bar by the owner. It's a new day at Kelly's.

Conversation at the Double Header in Pioneer Square with a woman whose name I never got, and "Don" the bartender. After she left he told us she had been a hooker. No way.

Just another night on the street for the Operation Nightwatch ministers. R.

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Late in Belltown

Third Avenue in Seattle’s Belltown neighborhood.  It’s 11:00 p.m. on a Thursday night.  As I walk along I great people – the homeless people leaving Nightwatch on their way to shelter, the students out for a lark, the drug dealers in the shadows.  From a block away I can see a woman walking in the street, adjusting her clothing provocatively. 

Eyes straight ahead.  I don’t need to see that. 

“Hey,” she hollers.  “Are you really a minister?”

I stop dead in my tracks, the hair on my neck standing straight up.  “Yes, I’m really a minister.”  

The woman crosses over to me, shifts her beer into her other hand, and reaches out for mine.  “I’m going to ask you to do something strange.”

I was REALLY concerned now.  “What do you want?”

Not letting go of my hand, she said, “Would you pray for me?”

“I don’t think that’s strange at all.  What’s your name?”


I stood on the sidewalk holding Lisa’s hand, her hard hand, a hand which didn’t want to let go.  I prayed a short prayer for her healing and comfort and protection in Jesus’ name.

Her hard hand just didn’t want to let go, like a poor swimmer at summer camp, who reaches the deep water and finds that rope across the middle of the pool, the way of safety for swimmers like me.  When I was a kid I would hang onto that rope and pull my way along to the side of the pool.

I will never forget Lisa’s hand in mine, finding safety for the moment.

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Operation Nightwatch Seattle

Sitting in a neighborhood bar is a crazy way to live, especially since all I ever drink there is water. 
I wonder how much shorter my life is thanks to second hand smoke.  But I'm hooked.  There aren't that many real places any more, where working class poor and slumming rich and neighbors can mix it up.
I totally dig Targy's, 6th and Crawford, buried in a residential neighborhood -- owned by a grumpy Norwegian who looks 20 years older than he really is, thanks to some bad luck in his career of choice -- fisherman.  Most nights he really couldn't be bothered.  Getting up off his stool to get customers beer seems like more trouble that it's worth.  He's positively feeble at 56, and no businessman. 
For a few blessed weeks "Homer" was too sick to work, so he hired several attractive females.  Business was booming.  Even having to pay salaries, he was better off.  Homer returns, and the customers leave.  Who wants attitude along with their cheap beer?
I like going to Targy's, Homer or no Homer.  I walk in wearing a collar.
I'm a minister, full time working with Operation Nightwatch in Seattle.
For the past 20 years I've hung out in low dives and neighborhood bars, just making friends.  I don't preach.   I'm just there.  If people want to talk religion with me, fine.  I've settled a few bar bets through the years.  And I've talked baseball.  Sometimes people decide there are better ways to live than sitting there getting drunk every night. 
I decided I better start throwing my stories out there while I can.