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.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Unhappy Customer

We had an unhappy customer last night.

There's a problem with homeless people just hanging out in the neighborhood around Operation Nightwatch. So we instituted a rule that says we won't help you if you decide to loiter in our neighborhood.

"I got a constitutional right to go where I want!!" they scream at me. Of course that's true. We also have the right to refuse service.

99% of our friends get it. They take a bus that gets them here at 9:10, or they hide out someplace closeby until we open at 9:00. Are we being cruel? No, we're simply trying to keep peace with neighbors.

There is absolutely no advantage to showing up early. We have plenty of food and goodies. Last night someone could have waltzed in at 9:45 and not waited in line, gotten all the food and goodies and socks he wanted.

So, the night before last some knucklehead was spotted at the bus stop a block away, a good hour before we opened. He made some case for himself ("I was helping a woman who was assaulted in a restaurant, you wouldn't want me to let her get murdered like that lady under the viaduct and what kind of Christian ARE you?") and then proceeded to scream at my staff (I heard it all -- he thought I wasn't around, so when he wrote me a letter it was a pretty interesting slant on it all).

The thing is, he was in the neighborhood, got caught up in someone else's drama (even this is doubtful, there was no woman around) and was barred for a single night. But because he was screaming threats and mayhem, we decided we're done helping him. CityTeam? Compass Center? Salvation Army ARC? There are options.
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