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.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Nightwatch Cat

We take in cats too.

Here's resident John, with Tiger.

Tiger isn't feel very well. I hope he's okay, we just can't figure out why he's not himself.

Vet tomorrow?

Yup. This will be interesting.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Seattle Shooting

Friday night there was a shooting in downtown Seattle -- a mentally ill Muslim forced his way into the Jewish Federation on 3rd between Lenora and Virginia Street. I got the first call from Seth at the Family and Adult Service Center at 4:30 p.m. saying that the whole block was on lock-down. He wasn't sure that the night shelter would open.

So between 4:30 and 7:45 I hovered by the phone, checking out what was going on. The Women's Referral Center was closed. They moved their operation to Noel House (a women's shelter in the same neighborhood).

At 7:45 I was able to reach workers at FASC and they told me it would be "business as normal" -- other than the fact that our homeless guys would have to duck under police tape at 3rd and Virginia and walk the half block to their shelter.

World events: the war in the Middle East, impacts the local community: unhappy Muslim shooting Jewish Federation: impacts me: displaced homeless men & women: impacts my family: cancelled date with my wife. Not much of a price, I know, but weird to be connected at all with all the news.

Why can't we all get along? Homeless people have enough to worry about without some nut disrupting life here.


Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Finally -- New women's shelter opens

No women have been turned away since we opened a new shelter on Friday night.

The first night only three women were sent to the secret location. Saturday and Sunday the place was full.

Still things are running rough -- had to scramble to get the mats, borrowed from Family & Adult Service Center, using their super-cool van.

Salvation Army is in charge. We provide the money and the tenants.

It's an extra $10,000 a month. Care to help?

Another homeless woman dies

Yesterday we learned of another death of a homeless woman, at 12th & Jefferson, less than a half-mile away. We still don't know how she died.

Sylvia started to cry. Another friend gone.

Friday, July 21, 2006

World War Three is Starting and All Seattle is Worried About is the Sonics Leaving

Dravus Street bar was dead, the Milk Maid is leaving, I'm sad, that's that.

MFQAT was in fine form -- Linen Man, My Favorite Bartender, J (or rather, J's Shadow, since so much of him is now GONE), Train Guy, et. al. Tug Boat was missing, but I needed a break.

Third & Bell -- caught up with The Man With No Identity (see last August for his story). Said How-di-do to several others, gave MWNI a ride home. Also ran into Bruce B. who was drunk but happy to see me, knows we're there for him; tried to point him toward recovery and get him thinking about helping others.

Something MWNI said tonight stayed with me. "It's almost World War 3 and Seattle is worried about the Sonics leaving." Amen.

Back at HQ Father Kim comforted a distraught rambling woman, or tried to figure her story out. I took off (sorry Kim) and dropped Caesar Agustus off at the FASC. I let the worker know he was my buddy, not that it will do any good. But Caesar is more than a little dispondent about his situation. Needs some quality God time too. I feel sorry for the guy, I think he wants to do good, but has so many obstacles he's bound to give up, say "screw it" and use again or do something henious. Hope not. He's too young to give up.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Stabbing victim remembered

Women in Black remember stabbing victim Tonya S.

Tonya's story hit us pretty hard at Operation Nightwatch. She was known by us around here. The scene of the crime is not that far from here.

Meanwhile, Operation Nightwatch keeps turning away women because there isn't enough room in any of the shelters. Last night we turned away twelve more. Blanket and a bus ticket and good luck.

We're on the verge of being able to open a new women's shelter for 15 difficult to serve women. It will take a little bit of the pressure off, for a few months. Salvation Army is hiring staff, and we've worked out a secret location, just to preserve some safety for some women who need that.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Waiting for shelter at Operation Nightwatch

Gotta Dance

Never a dull moment.

"Milk Maid" confided to me that she has given her notice at the Dravus Street bar, where she has worked on and off for nearly 30 years. I'm still trying to figure out how I feel about it.

Dog Boy is happy -- heavy metal concert tomorrow.

Through most of our visit tonight a woman was dancing by herself, watching herself, studying her moves in the mirror. She seemed like an amazingly preserved person, a plastic surgeon's dream. Her physique was impressive, her facial skin taut, beautiful smile. Milk Maid whispered to me that Dancing Lady is a former stripper. She didn't take off any clothes, didn't need to.

Did I tell you she blew me a kiss as I was leaving? Yee haw!

Pastor Dave played some decent pool, a younger Afro-American "kid" and an older guy "Tony?" that knew what he was doing.

Skipped MFQAT tonight -- not enough time.

At Third and Bell things were hopping. Guy on the corner. Crowd out front smoking. Inside I introduced myself to a guy, whose mom "V" I helped with shelter a few weeks ago. She has a place now, living with another Nightwatch client who is working and paying freight. "V" went and got another woman in the bar for me to see -- a really nice lady who was getting out of domestic abuse situation. The two of them stayed on the street together because there were no shelters for women at all.

Imagine -- they were so happy to see me, and I was the one that told them they were going to have to sleep outside for a night. But both of them now are better off, living in their own places (well, sort of). At least they aren't on the street.

At some point during the night I watched the bike police bust the dude on the corner. What do you know? Didn't know that still happened. It's pretty wide open down there, lots of connections happening.

Night ended with a really wasted handsome guy assuring us that he was praying for us.

Back at Nightwatch HQ, a few anxious women waiting for something, anything. Lord, bring us the workers for the women's shelter.

Care to give? and follow the links.


Saturday, July 08, 2006

Nightwatch minister at work

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Rev. Norm Riggins

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First Avenue Seattle - early 1970s

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Low Life

Low Life
Lures and Snares of Old New York
, by Luc Sante
Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, 1991


At night sometimes in certain parts of the city, usually in those remaining streets that are left deserted, usually in winter, but sometimes in other seasons if the streets are sufficiently forsaken, the past can be seen as if through a smeared window. Sometimes this effect occurs only for an instant: when you’re walking back from someplace with a head crammed with company and music and sensations, to a point where all new sensations dissipate, on some dead street in the middle West Side lined with jobbers and import showrooms and loading docks and shuttered luncheonettes, or on a street on the Lower East Side where the intersections have no stoplights and everything is nailed down and dark and the only people to be seen dart by as furtively as wraiths. There will be no traffic, and the streetlights will seem to shrink back into their globes, drawing their skirts of illumination into tight circles, and the rutted streets reveal the cobbles under a thin membrane of asphalt, and the buildings all around are masses of unpointed blackened brick or cacophonies of terra-cotta bric-a-brac or yawning cast-iron gravestones six or eight stories tall. This is the sepulcher of New York, the city as a living ruin.

It is also the bridge to the past, the past that shares the same night as the present, even if it inhabits a different day. The night is the corridor of history, not the history of famous people or great events, but that of the marginal, the ignored, the suppressed, the unacknowledged; the history of vice, of error, of confusion, of fear, of want; the history of intoxication, of vainglory, of delusion, of dissipation, of delirium. It strips off the city’s veneer of progress and modernity and civilization and reveals the wilderness. . . . In the streets at night, everything kept hidden comes forth, everyone is subject to the rules of chance, everyone is potentially both murderer and victim, everyone is afraid, just as anyone who sets his or her mind to it can inspire fear in others. At night, everyone is naked.
(p. 357-358)

Thought it applied to Nightwatch! Rick

Friday, July 07, 2006

Twelve Step Tango

Dravus Street bar was quiet, but had a great extended conversation with "Frenchy" who is actually Dutch. Things haven't been great for him since his motorcycle crash three years ago; he has a lawyer helping him get onto Social Security. From the looks of things, he should get the dough. He had a wild story about being an alien in possession of a handgun twenty years ago, having to do time for it, then skipping out on probation and living basically underground for so many years. Seems a little over the top for the nature of the crime, if the details are correct (yeah, yeah, yeah, they rarely are -- no one in the joint is guilty).

Got razzed at MFQAT for being AWOL. I've got to be the only minister in the world who calls in to the bartender when I can't be there.

J & I talked about the final 15 pounds, motivation. We've both reached that point of What The Heck with diet and exercise. If you aren't doing it for yourself, then you'll never get there. All the bargaining (improve my love life, see my abs once before I die, etc etc) won't be motive enough if there isn't a change of heart about just about everything. I'm preaching to myself here, but I see things stalling for him and for me; got to work through my 12 step process.

The rest of my visit to MFQAT was a wrestling match between me and Tug Boat Annie -- she was laying all over me telling me stuff I can't post about a patron at another bar that I know; she was getting drunk to celebrate President Bush's birthday (she hates him). J says I enabled her, and on reflection, he's right.

I may pull a surprise visit to MFQAT this weekend, just to see who is there.

Back down to 3rd and Bell, I stood on the sidewalk and talked to the Man With No Identity -- on no particular topic, but it was easily the most pleasant conversation of the night. He asked about "M" my friend who visited last fall and assisted with getting his ID straightened out, which led to his Social Security starting (he's 65) and with that, permanent housing for the first time in 5? years.

Also saw K2 -- looked like he was making a connection. Too bad he's not willing to deal with it, it will eventually kill him. He's smart and funny.

Other "how-de-do" and took the MWNI home. A satisfactory night. God bless us all, we need it. Rick

Monday, July 03, 2006

OKAY -- Queen Anne United Methodist

Mystery solved. See below -- the guy meant Queen Anne United Methodist. We will keep praying for him anyway; thanks Helen B. for clearing things up.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Easy Night

Nightwatch volunteer at St. James ministry fair

I am back at the dispatch center tonight, 7:30 to midnight because John wasn't feeling well. But it was the first of the month, lots of shelter, ridiculous amount of shelter out there tonight -- closed with tons of places left open. It's a very warm night, no one wants to smell the stinky feet.

I'm cruising along, killing time the last hour. "R" shows up late, wanting the Queen Anne shelter for men. Told him I'd take him over at midnight, so he waited around.

He's giving me a bad time, teasing me about drinking. Asked me what I am (kind of a weird question, but the clerical collar is a curiousity). When I told him I'm Methodist, he asks "Free Methodist?" and I was startled, trying to remember if I had told him something last time I saw him.

"Yes, Free Methodist, so what?"

"Church on Queen Anne Hill?"


Turns out he went to church at First Free Methodist when he was younger -- lived on Dravus. Now he's trying to rebuild his life after jail and drugs. He's discouraged.

I gave him a lift to the shelter, and breathed a prayer over him as he clambered out of my too-small car.