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, January 22, 2007

Severe Weather Over -- Shelters Close

Saturday night was the last night for severe weather shelters to be open. These are shelters that are only open on nights when the wind/rain/snow factors reach some arbitrary level of hardship.

The outcome is that 75 - 100 spots at Seattle City Hall are now closed and the 30+ women sheltered in the lobby of the Frye Apartments are tossed out. All these human beings who have been inside now have no place to go.

I decided to work at the dispatch center last night, calming nerves, providing what little advice and support I could to the army of homeless people looking for help.

At 9:15 I drove a woman with a broken ankle, struggling along with a walker, up to the shelter at a local church. No one answered the doorbell, so we waited five minutes. Still no one. Called the manager at home. Meanwhile my crippled friend needed the toilet. So we drove 2 blocks to another shelter; they were happy to take her in and not only let her use the bathroom, propped her up on a sofa all night.

They also gave me the keys to the church so I could open.

Now I've been working with homeless people for what, 25 years? But this is the first time I ever opened a women's shelter.

When I got back up to the church there was a group of women walking away, giving up. It was heart breaking. I hollered. They turned around and came back; the key turned, and together we proceeded to figure things out.

None of these women had ever been to that location before.

Women continued to arrive, and sometime around 10:30 we had staff -- one sub and the manager. Unbelievably lame performance. The manager said she would have to stay until another worker arrived, a worker who was waiting for a babysitter.

In the end we didn't turn away any women -- everyone got in. One woman who had wandered off at the beginning evidently could sleep at her office. And the lady with the broken ankle? She got to stay put on that sofa.

Just another routine night. Grrrrrr. Rick


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