Street Stories

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

My Photo
Location: Seattle, Washington, United States

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

Friday, February 24, 2006


Hey, on the street since 1982, and tonight I had my first flat tire. At the end of the night, on my way back to Nightwatch, I felt the car pulling, pulling. Finally realized what was going on ('hey, it's not the bumpy road after all!') and thankfully found a level parking spot.

There was a party on the sidewalk, spilling out from someone's swanky downtown condo. They commiserated with me ("The priest has a flat!) and two different women (!) offered to help me out. Made me feel like a million to have some young thing in party clothes offer to help. heheehee. Fifteen minutes and I was on my, thank goodness I had everything I needed.

But it was a great night -- ran into an old friend up on Broadway. Larry saved me when I was about 20 -- crash on the freeway, and there was Larry my bud directing traffic around me, helped me limp the car off the freeway. There's a lot more to the story. Anyway, nice conversation with him and his fiance.

On to MFQAT. Lots of regulars, lotsa NW love out there -- it has been upscaled so some people miss the tawdriness of the old place. The new bartender doesn't ignore you or growl, so maybe it's just no fun anymore? But the three HD wide screens are sure nice for watching ice skaters. Nice conversations with several patrons, and many more greetings.

Then on to the Dravus Street bar. Wasn't sure I was going to stay long, but it was midnight (bar time) before I got out of there.

Milk Maid was back.

She's had a tough couple months. She fell on the job a while ago and fractured her hands or wrists, and had to take many weeks off the job. She was back for a week, then her aged mother passed away (prayers go out to the extended family). So this was the first Thursday back.

I asked if what bartender V. said was true, that she had worked at this bar for 30 years. She said yes, off and on. Amazing. (Also amazing, that the owner would give her a hard time about applying for L&I from being injured on the job. Unbelievable.)
She was really happy to see me (did I mention I was alone tonight?)

As I stood at the bar, I looked down and saw a blue Mariners bag, and yep, sure enough there was "J" parked there, just like last week. He still has no place to go, so I called our worker back at the home office. No more shelter left (it was 11:15 by this time). I asked "J" what he was going to do. I guess he's been going to a 24 hour restaurant in Ballard and hanging out for the night. They don't mess with him, which is pretty amazing when you think about it. It must be a headache for the crew to have a drunk just sitting there for a whole shift. They must be cool with it or it wouldn't continue. (Note to Pastor Dave -- does the former barmaid from 3rd and Bell still work at this 24 hour restaurant which we have visited?)

Anyway, had a very dynamic conversation with "J." Encouraged him to get a vision of himself helping others in like circumstances get off the booze and back on their feet. He's sort of given up because he's been fighting alcohol his whole life, has a few months of sobriety a year ago, but relapsed. Really praying that he would commit himself to the steps and give himself over to God as he understands him. He was shedding tears as we talked, but I've learned not to take the tears of a drunk very seriously. Still, there was resonance.

Thank you to the donors who make the work possible, to the hardest working crew of people in the world: Ann, Paul, John, Sherry, Theo, Jeff, Billy, Alfred. Looking for a part time job? Call our office: 206-323-4359. And thank you Lord for trusting us all with the care of these precious lives.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Street Stories 2/20/06

Picked up the "burgers" at Dicks on lower Queen Anne. That sure is a great on-going gift.
Went to NO in Pioneer Square. Not much happening. J. amd her mother were putting up M G. decorations. She introduced me to her long time friend T. We had a long talk. Put me behind my usual schedule, but that was all right.
Went directly to 2B. for a cup of soup. (Very Good!) Good talk with A. (bartender). not many people in tonight so no other conversation.
K. was fairly quiet but always have a good time there. D. was going through "stuff" that has been left there. Ended up filling my car with sleeping bags, clothes, etc. He was just going to throw it in the garbage. Some of is useful. Bonnie will take care of it.
I was late enough I went directly to NL and met my friend F. We always have a good visit. He has few friends so seems to need our contact.
An other new bar maid. Will get aquainted as time goes along.
Office was completely empty of clients when I got back. Every thing went well there.


Friday, February 17, 2006

Baby, It's COLD Outside

Seattle doesn't usually get this cold.

Operation Nightwatch responded. Extra blankets went out to three different shelters -- ROOTS shelter and FASC shelter and the temporary cold weather shelter run by Salvation Army on a contract with City of Seattle, located at City Hall, 4th and James.

We also had volunteers riding along in two police vans, trying to convince homeless people to go into shelter for the cold weather.

Plus Father Kim and I were out and about

We stopped by the Seattle Center and made contact with the security people there. Talked to several homeless guys who were hanging out in the Center House; at 10:00 p.m. they were off to Sacred Heart shelter, so I guess this is the nightly routine. They were a little freaky about having 2 priests talk to them. But it was good.

At the Dravus Street bar -- which was pretty dead -- we were goofing at the bar that we had blankets if there were any homeless in the house -- thinking of course that there weren't any. Goes to show ya. Some clean cut guy at the bar said he had no place to go. "You're kidding?" Nope. So we took "J" off to FASC and fixed him up with a mat for the night. "V" was subbing in the bar for the Milk Maid, who is off settling her mother's affairs. Mom lived to be 92 (pretty good genes there!) V wonders if she'll even come back. I hope so, just so I can say goodbye or something. I guess the Milk Maid has worked there 30 years. I'm gonna have to check to see if it's really true. Can't believe it.

I felt compelled to return up to My Favorite Queen Anne Bar since I missed last week. It was pretty busy -- had a few inconsequential how-de-dos. One guy reminded us that he gave us $20 bucks at Christmas (he must have been drunk, it was actually $40). Kim joked that we were waiting for him to borrow it back. But actually he said these profound words: "I'm blessed. I live in a house on Queen Anne. I want to give it back to the community." He apologized for only having $2 on him; the highs and lows tonight. One a drunk who just can't quit, having to sleep in heap of humanity, the other wanting to make a difference.

Stopped briefly at 3rd and Bell, not much going. R#3 gave us both calendars. A phone call from our police volunteers told us NOT ENOUGH SHELTER exists on this cold night. Harumph. So much for cold weather planning. We ran blankets to City Hall where it was really over crowded. But more needs to be done.

OK I'm exhausted. Pray for all the shelter workers and Deputy Director Ann and all the others on the front lines, and don't forget the folks with no place to go at night. "Foxes have holes, the birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head." Jesus was homeless too.
G'night. Rick

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Street Stories for 2/6/06

A very quiet night. Mostly due to a Seahawk loss last night.

At NO. only W. sitting at the bar. We always have a good visit.

At K. it was unusally quiet. Some greetings and a good talk with D. at the bar. He seemed a bit miffed with everybody tonight.

A good cup of soup at 2B. but not a lot going on. Even the bartender A. was a bit quiet.

At 5P. sort of got manhandled but a "high" young lady. I knocked her hands away and said I would talk as long as she wanted but to keep her hands to herself. We did talk but don't know how much got through. A. at the bar helped difuse the situation and patrons sort of understood. When I left they said "thanks" for being there.

Made my usual stop at NL. had a cup of coffee with F. and met the new barmaid D. Will get better aquainted in the future.
All in all a good night.

Friday, February 03, 2006

The Man with No Identity is OFF THE STREET

Finally! The Man With No Identity is homeless no more!

Our saga goes back years -- having no ID, living on the street for years, working for subsistence food and drinking money, the MWNI posed a challenge. But we got his ID replaced (an amazing story) and signed up for Social Security (he had a life -- worked, now at 65 needs to be in bed, not on the ground under an awning.)

This week he moved into our apartment building at Operation Nightwatch. His checks are still not arriving, but we know they are coming and we're willing to take a chance.

Thank you Nightwatch donors -- check us out at and follow the links to give online.

Thank you to others who helped along the way -- Chris, the friend downtown, Mistie who shepherded him through the Vet's Center process, Jan, who gave us tips on ID replacement, Wayne, who sprung for deposit money. Great!

Late Night Theology

Seahawk frenzy is building. First two stops tonight were so uneventful -- other than the fact that the Milk Maid was back at her post, having fallen and being on the injured reserve list for a month. Welcome back! The boys at MFQAT tried to talk me into watching the Superbowl with them. Feels like a loser thing to do, but then the wifey informed me she was going out with "The Aunties" and so I'm on my own (again) on a Sunday afternoon. Enough of my travail. I'll let you know if I opt for MFQAT for watching Seattle beat up on the Steelers.

If the first two stops were uneventful, wasn't prepared for the bombardment at 3rd & Bell. Lot's of illegal substances floating around the neighborhood -- early in the month, people have dough. Met Hispanic "G" again -- pretty drunk, asked for prayer; as our conversation progressed he escalated -- angry, suicidal, called me a liar so I quit talking to him -- he really irked me, but we made up before closing.

Listening in was "C" who works for an upscale caterer, very unhappy with self-loathing, alcohol remorse, sexual angst. Gave him my card, we shall see. He was loveable to me. Two guys name "K." One with beret looked to be making a drug connection after leaving the bar -- he was protesting his virtue just a few months ago. Alcohol is the true gateway drug. He's smart, political, and out of control, from the looks of things. The other K works for the bar, swamps the place out, backs up the bartender. When asked where he was going to watch the game he said "At the Adult Day Care" which would make a great name for this place, dontcha think?

Just before leaving met "Catfish" and looking at him started asking him questions. We finally figured out who he was, his connection from years ago at Nightwatch. He's still on the streets 8 years later, showing definite signs of brain damage from drug use. Paranoia. He ducked behind a parked car when someone was shooting off fireworks in the neighborhood, I assume in celebration of Lunar New Year and/or the upcoming Seahawks pre-celebration. This drew a big laugh from the other drug users and hookers close by.

"Missy" gave me a big hug and toothless smile. What a wreck of a human being -- you can see she had some potential, but her ruined looks thanks to meth and whatever - told me it was her 38th birthday, which literally took my breath away. She looks really tough shape. "I want to be 28 again. Is that okay?" I had to give her the bad news, no going back. "YOU HAVE TO SAY YES!"

I went from Missy to see what Father Kim was up to. "D" was telling him about his days at Princeton Divinity School, quoting scripture, testing us, owning his alcoholism, claiming the Holy Spirit. I was able to quote along a little bit (I'm really lousy at these sort of confrontations, but God does bring things to mind occasionally). "We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities. . ." There was definitely warfare happening on the sidewalk last night. I think watching my friend "K" score something from one of the low-life dealers, well, it bugs me. Why a funny witty smart guy starts down that path, I'll never figure it. But God loves them all, and I'm right where I should be for my work. Lord Jesus help me be salt and light.
R, 1:00 a.m.