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.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Sock It To The Homeless

OK, we dig socks around here. Sunday was Sock It To the Homeless. By the end of the day we had 11,300 socks, give or take. Today Ben (girls, he's 29 and unattached . . . ) emailed me that we've hit the 13,000 mark.

We're gonna reach our goal -- 15,000 pairs. Yipppeee! Keep them coming.




It was one of those nights when I really didn't want to go out.
Two mornings in a row I've left the house before 7:00 a.m. and didn't get back until, well it was 8:00 last night, and tonight, er this morning, it'll be like 1:00 a.m.
So I'm tired. So what. That's life.
But it would have been easy to lay around and phone it in. My bar-hopping co-pastor bailed on me, so I was all alone.
Anyway, I ended up going to Tent City 3 at Riverton Park United Methodist Church, dropping off 80 pairs of socks. (Egad, haven't told you yet . . . later post). The desk guys whined about no flashlights, so I ran down Highway 99 until I finally found a Safeway open at 9:45, bought some flashlights and batteries. ran back to TC3.
In the 45 minutes of my running around, the whole situation had changed. The desk person was different, the mood was different. A bunch of new people were getting checked in, there was a hum of activity. I simply dropped the stuff on the desk and left without signing in the donation book.
I drove away feeling weirdly grumpy, but I figured it out. It was the total lack of appreciation for my heroic effort. Wah Wah Wah. But it was the right thing to do, so I'm glad I did it, and I don't have to have some homeless TC3 person go ape for me.
On to My Favorite Queen Anne Tavern, which is now a bar I guess because they added hard liquor. Anyway MFQAT I thought would be a good quick visit and head in early.
First there was a very sad lady out front, about which I could do nothing but listen and be calm. Her situation will be better (dear God, please) in a day. She's had some hard knocks in her life, and so like all of us, she strings these hard knocks together in her mind. Proof of God's knuckleheadedness (my junior high gym teacher taught me that word, feel free to borrow it).
While she's screaming, crying, cursing God, invoking her dead mother's memory, the MFQAT is spewing out streetwalkers, boys in mini-skirts, Superman, Lois Lane, Wolfman, and a really great looking go-go girl in white boots and sequined dress. Surreal.
Inside the party was rolling. Saw some favorite regulars, had a nice conversation with a Catholic young man.
I left feeling better, even if no one else did. And we all know it's about me, right?


Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Harley Davidson Beer

What a street name: "Loser."
Loser slept in his van on the edge of downtown, with a 9 inch toad sticker on the seat next to him.
Homeless guys would walk by with their Operation Nightwatch issued blankets. He'd buy the blanket for $2-3. So he wasn't very cold at night, even in the winter.
When he got hired as an apartment manager (!) he kept in touch with me. His gruff Vietnam vet exterior was hiding a heart of gold.
His parting gift to me was a can of Harley Davidson Motorcycle beer. I put this in my lower desk drawer, imaging some dramatic moment (like retirement) when I could ceremoniously pour the thing out.
On really down days I would open my lower drawer and look at it. It rattled around with the odds and ends of tools and hardware that I would periodically use for emergency repairs on our building.
Then I made an amazing discovery. Something in the drawer had punctured the can, the beer had completely drained out and then dried. What a smell!
Not an omen, right?


Friday, October 12, 2007

Rat City

What a night we had in Rat City! I got out of the car and said to Pastor Dave, "Watch, they're gonna think we're cops."

We go into a new bar (well, new to us), and the first thing the 77 year-old drunk at the bar says is "Hey. . . are you guys cops?"

I told him yes, just to see what he'd say. He knew I was lying.

We also met: a grandma with chartreuse hair who teaches school; a social worker who knew my Capitol Hill neighbor in the 1970s; a vivacious bartender; several other noteworthy characters.

I think we're hooked.

Oh yeah, some really drunk lady trying to take off her sweatshirt gave the poker players an accidental shot of her boobs. Believe me, naked boobies were not very interesting.

Twenty-five years of hanging out in bars, first time I've see that. Sure wish I hadn't.


Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Bargain basement

For so many years Nightwatch simply provided access to shelter -- we would top off the empty mats in various shelters.

Then in the summer of 1995 things changed. We started paying for shelter. It was a bargain basement deal -- inside on the floor of a day program -- what was then called First Ave. Service Center. No mats, no blankets. Their motto "It beats an alley." Homeless guys kept an eye on things, sort of. Complaining was pointless.

The only way Nightwatch could afford to provide the service: the homeless guys in charge were paid a "stipend" as a part of an under-the-table "work training" program. (Don't blame us, we were simply the customers for this bargain basement deal.)

Now that FASC (now the Family & Adult Service Center) is being professionally run the costs are up (still not a living wage for Seattle, but pretty sure the deal includes health care and holiday pay). Way up. Like, how-the-heck-is-Nightwatch-going-to-pay-that-up.

So, on the one hand we're patting our backs for raising extra money to pay for the new women's shelter; on the other hand we're scratching our collective heads to figure out how we're going to survive 2008-2009.

Maybe we simply stop messing with shelter, and hit the streets ourselves. It sucks.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The Song

There is music
That runs through me
Sometimes pizzicato
Sometime adagio
Sometimes harmonic
And then dissonant.

How about you?

Do you feel the stars
To a sweeping unheard symphony
Resonating inside and out?
Do you feel the thump
Of bass
As God’s low-rider,
Windows down,
Makes life jump for joy?

So why do you hear
That same tune
And tap your toe
In synch with me,
And the others
I love
Do not?

I sing alone,
But not alone at all.
I sing with you
Wherever we find ourselves
Under the same
Shimmering sun
Vibrating stars.


Monday, October 08, 2007

Tent City Current Location

Someone wanted to know how to get to Tent City 3 -- the one that has been flopping from North Seattle to South Seattle - here's a link to the map for Riverton Park United Methodist Church. To access TC3 you pretty much show up these days.

Riverton Park United Methodist Church
3118 S 140th St, Tukwila, WA,+WA&ll=47.477932,-122.292878&iwstate1=dir:to&iwloc=A&f=d&daddr=3118+S+140th+St,+Tukwila,+WA+98168

Bus connections for the Metro 128 route:

Friday, October 05, 2007


Texas was back in town, singing ki-yi-yippy yippy yeah! He was rather subdued, maybe too many hours on the train from El Paso. We'll miss his generosity at Christmas. Never has a drunk in a bar handed over so many $100 bills for helping the homeless folks.


Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Sock It to the Homeless

Our annual sock drive, "Sock It to the Homeless" is in full swing.

The goal this year: 15,000 pairs of socks.

Open house: Sunday, October 21, 1:30 to 3:00 to gather in the socks collected all around the city by churches, community groups, and schools.

Please help any way you can. For more info: (206) 323-4359.
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Tuesday, October 02, 2007

What's it got to do with homeless?

This pic is me in 1979 -- never before seen, sent to me by my old housemate Ken W. I'm sitting on the front porch of "Pardee House" formerly located at 14th and E. Olive St. on Capitol Hill.

This house was owned by Advent Christian Church, and they let young adults live there. All we had to do was pay all the bills and upkeep. It amounted to about $30 a month per person, as I recall.

Without that help, I wouldn't have made it through grad school. The house was sold in the early 1990s to Seattle Housing Resources Group, who tore it down (before it could burn down!) to build low-income transitional housing for families.

Emma Pardee was a single woman who ran a boarding house on the site for many years, starting in the late 30s. She housed people cheap, plus put out a pretty good meal for other people living in neighborhood (people often didn't have a kitchen in their room in those days.) Her "boys" could count on a hearty breakfast, and lunches to go. One of her guys was Fred S. who's future wife Katie was Miss Pardee's helper.

When Pardee (as she was called) became infirm, Fred & Katie moved her in with them. She died and left the run-down house to the church. The people who lived there after that point is pretty long: Loren, Andy, Mary, Kathy, Rick, Lorri, Tim, Ken, Dan, Denise, Quincy, Ralph, Laura, Rachel, Soudamone, Nith, Samphone, Phong Sack, John Mark, Sherwin, Paul, Alan, Sharon, and probably 10 more that aren't coming immediately to mind.

Funny how a picture of me on a front porch can trigger so much.

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Monday, October 01, 2007


In 12 months we've given away over 3,000 blankets to homeless programs and homeless people. We can currently see the dwindling supply from Church World Service isn't going to get us very far, plus other programs are nudging us about whether we can share or not. (ROOTS, you're the first to know.)

So this morning I called the distribution center in Philadelphia to find out where our order of July 17 might be. They have no record of it, but a very nice perky (think young and south Philly accent) person helped me sort everything else, found our order for 2006 (including a letter of support from the City of Seattle) -- to make a long story short, they can't ship anything until Congress gives the okay for the new fiscal year. The blankets will sit in the warehouse until released by Congress.

So, I say "Go Phillies!"

Blogger comments

Sad to say -- I get more blog responses to political content than the item below, on three homeless women. Probably not enough traffic at this site to bother with it. grumpy.