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.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Snow. Homeless. Seattle.

I've talked to three reporters today. How does the snow affect homeless people? What should homless people do to get shelter. Blah, Blah, Blah.

Look, there's not enough shelter in Seattle. But when it is this cold (wind chill today of 9 degrees F.) even the hardiest campers are driven inside. Who wants to sleep in the back of a pickup truck with a dog when it's 9 degrees?

So, city officials kick into high gear -- police are picking people up and getting them into the Rainier Room at the Seattle Center where ironically we had our fundraiser a week ago. We get an extra 25 - 30 guys into a temporary shelter at the Compass Center. Plus, every shelter in town will be full to the gills, people sitting up in chairs trying to sleep.

What will happen when everything melts? You guessed it. They give all those hangers on the boot. Good luck everyone.


Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Hey, I'm ripping off someone else's blog stuff!

Pint-sized Hero
Posted today at 9:22 am by Rick Anderson
It was a packed Rainier Room at Seattle Center yesterday that honored Joe Martin, 55, the Boston-Irish social worker and Pike Market Clinic co-founder. He was named
Operation Nightwatch's 2006 Hero of the Homeless as relentless advocate for the poor and powerless. Two years ago, the Low Income Housing Institute similarly honored him, naming one of its Georgetown renovation develpments Martin Court. What does he do to deserve the accolades? His job. The other day, before we could go have a pint at Kells down the alley from the clinic, I waited as Joe checked his messages and found a scary plea from a man who was about to lose his home and was on the verge of suicide. In five minutes, Joe turned it around - calming the man with a social worker's grace, determing he couldn't legally be tossed into the street, and making an appointment to meet him and resolve the problem in the morning. Just another typical few minutes in Joe's 29 years of service to humanity. Among his crusades: dental care for the poor. Too many of his people, he pointedly says, "when they bite into a sandwich, they leave a tooth in it." He rails against wars and conservatives and plays the harmonica or bangs the bodrum for the Clay Pipe band. He also dilligently pursues a modest life: "If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at who he gives it to," he says. Martin recevied a memorable pre-St. Paddy's Day write-up in the Times this year, in which Rebecca Teagarden described him thusly: "At 5 feet tall, with rosy cheeks, sparkly blue eyes, wiry beard and tweed cap herding wild Irish hair, he looks the part of an honest-to-God leprechaun. There could not be a better one. Ornery, crafty, gentle, kind, long on wit and loud of song, he belts out a ballad and charms a crowd all for a frothy pint and a bit o' coin." To which his friends add: "May you be in heaven a half-hour before the devil knows you're dead." (See Ben Benschneider's honest-to-God leprechaun here).

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Sunday, November 19, 2006

Wedding fun

Just so you know it's not all homeless and bar ministry, I did a wedding on Orcas Island in the San Juans this weekend.

The bride was marrying a Lebanese guy.

After the rehearsal at the church, we had to get back to Shaw Island, a short channel hop away, for the rehearsal dinner and the various homes where guests were lodged.

Well, it was going to take two trips. It would be quicker just to put a few extra people aboard, didn't seem too bad. It was a familiar passage to our skipper, about a 15 minute trip one way.

So we all crammed into our craft -- 11 adults, 3 kids. Did I mention the groom couldn't swim? I sat in the aft with a 40 pound box of baklava on my lap.

About 2/3 of the way home, Homeland Security forces accosted us from out of nowhere in the pitch black. We were ordered to stay on the dock, had to give our personal information, explain what we were doing and why. The two Lebanese guys with us had to produce ID and talk with the officers. It was pretty scary; funny; worrisome. What will happen? We don't know. The boat was overloaded, there were not enough floatation devices for the number of people, and evidently the owner had not renewed his boat registration for the year (this same boat has been delivering mail in the islands for awhile). We're praying for a warning for the skipper; lesson has been learned without a fine, I would think.

Meanwhile I was unsucessful in convincing the Coast Guard that baklava is a floatation device.


Jesus loves drunks

Jesus loves drunks.

There's really no argument about it. It was not detachment, or toleration, or even tough love he showed. Just love.

Yes it is hard work, and yes you might have to get close to unpleasantness. But isn't that really what love is all about?

This guy at Dravus Street bar just seemed so needy and loveable; a vet, pretty beat up by the world, described a lousy parent hauling him to a tavern at 15, off to Vietnam for a few years. Now dulling the pain with alcohol. He let me see his pain, just for a minute. And I won't forget it. Rick

Friday, November 10, 2006


Even when it's dead at Dravus Street Bar, a lot can happen. Fisherman bought our drinks. Drunk Dude at the end of the bar announced he was going to "Teen City" for shelter. Bartender thought he said "Tent City" but I knew he meant "CityTeam." I looked at him and knew A) he was too late to get into CityTeam and B) he was too blitzed to get into CityTeam. They don't take in drunks.

Half hour later, and several miles away my phone rang -- Drunk Dude wants shelter. I checked. There was a room of people waiting at our Nightwatch Dispatch Center. The last two mats just got filled. Everyone else, including Drunk Dude were facing a 40 degree night and rain. THIS SUCKS -- We need more shelter in this city.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Brother, Where Art Thou?

Took my brother along tonight for the ride. Rather slow night, but maybe he had some fun. MFQAT saw The Couple leaving. Their timing or mine is excellent; finally figured out that our order of bar hopping means we're hitting the bar after their favorite show hits the tube, so we miss each other.

They asked me to quote their favorite Luther quote, and now I'm not sure I've got it right. Anyone out there know? "Sin boldly, and love more boldly still."

He suffers from MS, but is "doing better" according to her. Not sure what happens if you overlay a neurological disease like that with beer, but it can't help I would think.

Last stop was at one of the men's shelters -- not full. There were a ton of options tonight, which is good because it was a classic mystery novel "dark and stormy" one. But it is early in the month, people are partying.