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.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

What makes me mad

This week in the mail I got this fabulous coffee table booklet entitled:

Homelessness in King County
Safe Harbors
January -- June 2007
It is 30 pages, heavy paper, four color printing, fabulous art and layout. This work of art was published by the City of Seattle Human Services Department, King County Department of Comunity & Human Services, and United Way of King County.

Now, I could gripe about the Safe Harbors program. They have spent how much money to collect information about homeless people?

I could moan about the stupid waste of time for the people doing the data collection; costs absorbed by agencies, money that could be spent actually helping someone.

But it's the #*^%)# waste of paper! Safe Harbors is about basic information gathering. How much money was wasted with this PR puffery? Who ordered this thing? They need to come down to Operation Nightwatch and stuff newsletters printed at Kinkos and think about the $25 a month some widow sends to pay for basic shelter for a stranger, because she feels bad about the homeless in our community.

Nightwatch is struggling to close a $90,000 gap in our budget for 2008. Less that 5% of our budget comes from government sources.



Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Funny story

OK, read below, and you'll figure out why this old story popped in my mind.

Guys come in all the time without any ID, we don't even ask for it because it just makes an artificial hurdle for someone wanting help. ID gets lost and stolen, and I've seen fake ID that someone got for $40 anyway. We aren't the police.

So, we found some new guy a place to go -- he signed in, and was waiting. Dispatch worker is announcing, "Fred Smith, Fred Smith" and no one is moving. "Person going by the name of Fred Smith!" Finally, that gets someone going. We make another announcement:

"Guys, if you gave us a fake name, please remember which fake name you used, it will help us a ton. Thank you."

The rest of the gang had a nice chuckle. Rick


It's so hard to know what's the right thing to do. I've dumped a ton of stories in this blog, and usually mix things up to protect people. Sometimes when I go out to speak I use names -- first names. And sometimes I even change those up to make sure to protect people.
But today a reporter called, looking for a guy who has suffered a terrible injustice. I didn't reveal anything, but told the reporter he could come visit our shelter dispatch program and see if the guy was there, willing to talk to him.
But even though this may right a wrong, maybe the guy doesn't want any attention. Maybe he doesn't want his family to know where he is, maybe there's another reason why he's content to stay in a shelter. And because it is sort of a "John Doe" situation with the guy's name, maybe it's not the same person at all.
Nightwatch doesn't require ID -- we will help you. Rick

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

At your service

Operation Nightwatch got a van -- surplus from King County. It has 146,000 miles on it, but it is in pretty good shape.
So last night I played chauffeur, making two runs to the women's shelter from our dispatch center. Normally, women would be given a free ride ticket for the city bus.
On this night at least they got curb to curb service.
There are a few kinks to work out. The van is pretty tough to get in and out of -- not much of a step. The very first woman to get into the van has major mobility problems. I couldn't tell if it was her knee or maybe impaired by a stroke. She had a hand cart/bag contraption that barely fit in the back of the van. The next few people liked using the stool.
Now we have to recruit volunteer drivers.
From 9:00 to 10:15 or so at night. The ladies were all very happy and appreciative.
Pastor Rick "Home, James" Reynolds

Friday, February 08, 2008

Severe Weather Shelters

City of Seattle authorizes these "severe weather shelters" that open when the temp drops or wind and rain get to be intolerable. Shelters open at 9:00 pm and dump people out at 5:30 or 6:00 a.m. the next morning. One big room, men at this end, women at that end (or women only, in one case). And if there is a big awful snowstorm, they add capacity at the Seattle Center.

The point -- keep people from dying outside.

My beef: People leave in the morning have no idea if the shelter will be open that next night. So they keep coming back, then suddenly one night a city worker decides it ain't cold enough. Not open.

The people are lined up at 9:00 pm waiting to get in. Waiting for nothing.

What a world.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

One suspect was trying to eat five forged tickets when police found him, Clark said.

Just a little comic relief from today's Super Bowl news.

Why is it, when people who AREN'T homeless and pull stunts like this, we don't stereotype them?

Just a thought.