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.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008


How do you spell relief?
Last night we "only" had 180+ people, with three men and two women turned out into the cold April night, Metro ride ticket and Army blanket in hand.
It's a bit of a break, considering in the last two weeks we've had snow, several nights where we were topping 200 homeless men and women, a death in one of the shelters. . . no fun.
Kudos to our staff, for having grace under fire. If you are homeless, don't come to Seattle. We're full, and the mayor may arrest you. Rick

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Tent City 3 set to move

This Saturday (April 26, 2008) Tent City 3 is moving from their current location at Our Redeemer Lutheran Church (85 NW and NW 24th in Ballard) to St. Mark's Cathedral on Capitol Hill. Tents are slated to be knocked down starting at 6:00 a.m. with the move actually starting about 8:00 a.m.

I try to get over to TC3 and bring stuff -- lately I've been bringing socks. It's no big deal, Nightwatch has tons of socks to share, and the folks seem really pleased to have them.

Thank you sock donors!


Monday, April 21, 2008

The Gospel on NPR

A Victim Treats His Mugger Right : NPR

This is one incredible story -- for full impact, listen to it, don't just read it.

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Sunday, April 20, 2008

Weird Dream

I had this dream -- church about to start, I'm in the pulpit introducing the first hymn -- something I've never heard before, not something I would have picked. But I scanned the words in the hymnal -- a line in the hymn about baseball. "It's okay," I think, "My friend Dan is in the congregation, he'll like that!" Then I found this tune at Youtube. Enjoy!

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Friday, April 18, 2008

It's getting worse

Tonight's gory numbers: 200 homeless people served (a record at our current location).
Twenty three men turned away.
Six women given nothing but a bus ticket and a blanket to get them through the night.
Horribly crowded. Every shelter in Seattle is filled. It is raining as I write this at midnight.
We're seeing very sick people, mentally ill, old people who can barely walk, addicts, and working people. They're not all hopeless, but none of them have money to live in this community.
Maybe we should just rent a bus and drop them off in Tacoma. Surely our neighbors to the south wouldn't mind.
We need help. Got any ideas? Call us.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008


Got the following email from Ann, Deputy Director, from Sunday night, April 13:

Okay. Total was over 180. 45 women. It was too hard. It was discouraging. It was too hard. It was too hard.
A morbidly obese woman came in from WRC with a walker, and several bags that she could not carry. I think other women from WRC helped her get to us, but then bailed. When I signed her in, she rambled on about having been discharged from Virginia Mason, been treated for edema (she was large but also swollen). She claimed she could not go to another place (she thought our location was the shelter); she just couldn't move anymore. I got her the last spot at Tonya's Room Shelter but she refused to go. She refused to go to any shelter. I offered to call for an ambulance to take her back to the hospital, which she ultimately did.
In the meantime, a male client parked himself near the door. He had come from the hospital too. He too could not move well. When the obese woman and another woman in a wheelchair (she went to Tonya's) came rolling through the door, this man who could barely walk stood up feebly and offered his chair. The women find other chairs with help from more able-bodied clients and the lame man sits back down. At the end of the night, he is one of the 6 male turnaways. Everyone leaves except him. He's the only one left, so he asked if he could stay in the Dispatch Center. He sounded like he wanted to go back to a hospital, but when he talked to the medics on the phone, he told them he would take a cab. Then he changes his mind and told us he would walk out of here and go catch a bus to get to a 174 to ride all night. But he didn't know where the bus stop was, and could not really walk (he has MS). Salvador fetched the pair of crutches we have in the back and the guy leaves, very slowly, very wobbley with the crutches headed for Jackson. I put my head down and pray. Its too hard.
Fifteen minutes later, we close at midnight. Salvador, Paul and I go out the door together and we see the guy with the crutches going down 14th toward Jackson, but he's barely in front of {the neighbor's} place. Its been fifteen minutes. I can't stand seeing it, so I go fast around the corner to my car, which is parked on Main, in front of the Temple. I drive up Main, right on 16th to Jackson and right on Jackson, heading home. When I stop at the light on Rainier and Jackson, I see the guy. He's now almost to the corner. And I see a BMW make a u-turn on 14th to pull up right next to the guy. Its Salvador, who gets out and goes to talk to the guy. Salvador clears out his front seat and even demonstrates to the guy how he should back into the seat. The light changed before I saw the guy get in Salvador's car, but I'm sure he gave him a ride. Thank God for Salvador. This is too hard.

Just another crappy April night at Operation Nightwatch.

Today we pay our taxes. Billions we spend for war, but for some poor person who is sick, go sleep on a bus.

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Monday, April 14, 2008

Mayor Nickels, dissembler

Hizzoner was on KUOW, (FM 94.9, Seattle).

The top of the list for Steve Scher are the cruel homeless encampment sweeps which the city has been conducting, illegally, for many months now.

It was a fascinating time. At first I thought, "Maybe the Mayor is ill-informed." He talked about the surplus of shelter in our city, the humane treatment homeless people who are getting moved receive.

I decided he was not ill-informed. Our mayor is a dissembler.

Last night we served 180 people at Operation Nightwatch. Many of these people need hospital care; they could barely hobble in. We served 45 women. Sick people with no place to go for the night.

Talking about a 10 year plan for these people is really the Big Lie.



Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Bailey Gatzert

Bailey Gatzert was the first (and only) Jewish mayor of the City of Seattle. Everyone needs a historic tidbit every day.

My office looks out on Gatzert Elementary. It is a Seattle school that serves homeless children.

Why hasn't Nightwatch plugged in over there?


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Friday, April 04, 2008

Early Night

"Early night!" I told Father Kim, as we walked out of My Favorite Queen Anne Tavern.

Oh, what the heck, we decided to swing by the Millionair Club where 75 of our guys sleep under the watchful eye of Compass Center employees. All very egalitarian.

Back at Nightwatch HQ, Manager Ben was dealing with stragglers looking for shelter, and tied up on the phone. In the corner sat a forlorn woman in a wheelchair.

"Rick" Ben barks, "wanna pick someone up at the bus depot and take them to DESC?" (Ben doesn't actually bark, but it makes a better story if he did. What, did you think all this stuff is true? PSHAW!)

So, Father Kim is game, off we go. Down on Stewart Street, a bunch of cabs parked, people in the shadows doing their thing, and one earnest looking young man with bags, right at the curb.

I pull up. "You from Nightwatch?" he asks.


He hops in, if one can really hop with 100 pounds of luggage. "That's gonna be trouble," I think to myself.

The 10 minute drive from Greyhound to DESC is the sort of monologue I wish I could tape and play back for myself over and over.

Greyhound dude describes his head and back injuries, his trauma with getting medical and support things sorted out, his hopes for the coming days, and other various and sundry minutae of his life and travels. And travails too, because he has had those, and more to come.

In a nutshell, his support isn't coming soon enough, so he's seeking out help, as though moving around irrationally will speed up your survival. Does that make sense? No?

Try hitting yourself in the head with a hammer, or fall off a ladder; then it might make sense.

If you saw the guy, you would swear he's your sister's preppy ex boyfriend. Bet you a nickel he doesn't show up at Nightwatch tomorrow night.
Back at Nightwatch, the fire truck is at the front door. No early night now.

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Thursday, April 03, 2008


Addiction is a horrible thing. You see the pictures of people, before and after their use of meth. At Nightwatch, we spend a fair amount of time dealing with junkies, either sick of life and wanting change, or sick of life and continuing the spiral downward.
People in the community have very little patience with addicts -- they just want to run them out of the neighborhood. Which is impossible of course, since a certain number of people living here in their own home are also addicted.
Sometimes people in churches are even more impatient, as though addiction is simply a matter of moral failure. When I go talk to church groups (think, "little old ladies") they can't seem to relate to the pattern of use, remorse, sobriety, relapse.
Until I mention food.
Anyone that has ever struggled with weight issues can understand -- biological urge seems to trump common sense. I know, food problems are not the same as heroin addiction. But people in the pews seem to understand the urge to eat donuts, or popsicles, even when you know you shouldn't, and don't really want to.
Those popsicles seem to talk to me sometimes. How about you?

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Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Silky Vestments

Brother Wes Browning seems just a little too infatuated with the nearness of all us clergy types at the City Hall Tent Meeting. Apparently finding out that we aren't all child-beating Old Testament patriarchal types has poked a hole in the thin veneer of his reality.

His infatuation in Real Change focuses on "silky vestments." I believe I should take Brother Wes to Kauffer's Catholic Bookstore and we shall show him how easy it is to dress for success; priesthood of all believers, you know?

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