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, June 30, 2008

weird dreams

Jungians beware:

I had this weird dream, sleeping fitfully since it's so hot out. I'm in my house and discover this delightful space on one of the upper floors; void of furniture, and showing evidence of water damage; bubbled paint, slumping ceiling. But still, a delightful discovery of space I hadn't known about previously.

Downstairs, a messy desk, with papers I've ignored too long.

Too much reality, I think.

ROOTS shelter needs help

This just came across my desk

At ROOTS Young Adult Shelter, we open our doors to 18-25 year old guests every night of the week. Our guests are provided a safe place to sleep, showers and laundry services, and the chance to meet adults who recognize them as members of our community. Volunteers are critical to our staying open, but the summer months mean a shortage of these caring adults. Unless we find more volunteers, we will have to have nights when we send people away and close the shelter.

Agree to volunteer 2 or 2.5 hours of your time, either preparing and serving breakfast (6:30- 8:30 am) or helping to run shelter during the evening hours (8:00-10:30 pm).
Broadcast this message to others that can help keep shelter open!
For more details on our volunteer opportunities, check out our website:

When you’re ready to sign up, e-mail us at

Thank you for your help,

Kristine Cunningham
Interim Program Director
Rising Out Of The Shadows Young Adult Shelter

Thursday, June 26, 2008

If I Won the Lotto

If I won the lottery, I'd still do this job.

Tonight was as pleasant a night as you could ask for -- nice conversations at all stops, some laughs, and one really happy occurance.

Someplace in this blog is the story of Father Kim and I pulling some sad sack homeless person out of the Dravus Street bar because he didn't have a place to go and it was about 20 degrees outside. Must have been three years ago at least. We hauled him down to the shelter.

I remember the conversation. He was feeling pretty low. "I must be the biggest loser you've ever seen." I really felt bad for him. He has construction management skills.

Well, he remembered me -- ran into me at one the stops, and he shook my hand and thanked me for helping him out.

What I remember was -- he forgot his bag at the Dravus bar; was going to have to get it the next day. Last thing he needed was to be in a bar.

Addiction is a horrible thing to live with, untreated. I have to say "J" looked a ton better -- but he's still got his face in a pint of porter at 11 at night. Is it progress?

Wake us all up, God.

"Devil Plays Hardball" to air July 20, 10:00 pm on CBC

I'm not really a shill for CBC television, but this is show I really want to see -- if I can find someone with cable????

The trailer at Youtube looks great -- see below. Basically, a group of people in Vancouver BC are matched up with homeless people -- to help them get off the street. What follows looks pretty intense, both good and bad.

July 20, 10:00 pm on CBC

Friday, June 20, 2008

Tug of War

We all are pulled
directions we don't wish to go.

I pull for people I encounter late at night
and hope
when I'm feeling weak
that somehow
they will pull
for me.

I will seek divine help,
and pray
for the great "Aha"

for both of us.


Thursday, June 19, 2008

Three Little Pigs

In case you forget the story:

Once upon there were three little pigs, going out to make their way in the world.

The first little pig was dyslexic and had a hard time finding work. He decided that rather than being homeless, he would build a house under the interstate, using straw. And so he did. He picked up day labor jobs on construction sites. He ruined his clothing about once a week, which made him look and feel pretty lousy. But he was surviving until he could find a friend to split rent with.

But the Department of Transportation workers were busy getting ready for future roadway repairs, and mowed the house down. Thankfully, the first little pig was at the community college working on his GED when his house was mown. When he returned home later that night he was pretty freaked out. “Two steps forward, one step back,” he thought, his teeth chattering as he climbed into a dumpster behind an apartment building for the night.

The second little pig had a brain chemistry issue that left him depressed. He worked part time for a big-box store, in the electrical department. The pay wasn’t that good, and because he was only part time, there was no health care benefit, which might have been useful in treating his depression.

He couldn’t afford a place of his own, so he took pallets that were left here and there around the city, and built himself a small house in the corner of a park, behind some bushes. He showered at a public pool, and picked up his mail at a friend’s house. No one knew he was homeless.

The third little pig got some help from his wealthy parents, who put him through school. This pig made a bundle flipping houses when things were going gangbusters, and ended up in a brick house with a view of the lake.

One day the third little pig was walking through the park near his house. He saw the little house built of pallets, and made a phone call.

The wolf was happy to help. He got the parks department crew to come out and haul away the little pig’s home. It was terribly upsetting to the already depressed pig. The first night he slept at a bus stop, and the next day got some more pallets to build another house in a new location.

Meanwhile, the third little pig and the wolf became great friends, because deep down inside, there is a little pig in all of us.


Tuesday, June 17, 2008


You know how this works -- the lifeboat can only hold so many people.

Too many people get in the boat and what happens?

You sink.

So what are you willing to do to keep the extra people in the water?

Whack someone over the head with an oar?

It's where we are at with homeless help. We've already made the move -- several times -- for a bigger boat. Thus, we've added shelter. From ZERO in 1994, to three shelters serving 140 men and women now.

Guess how much the city of Seattle pays for all this help? ZERO.

Know why? We don't fit the 10 year plan. We're not linked into the Homeless Management Information System -- the attempt to quantify homelessness. If you take city dollars, you have to input information about the people you are helping into this dismally poor performing computer system. (Remember, I'm only going by what I hear 2nd hand) Anyway, the cost of putting information into a computer system is not a cost we could absorb anyway.

I guess I don't mind. We'll just keep taking care of people, and hustling to expand the lifeboat.

Go gently with those oars, ok?

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Friday, June 13, 2008

Shame on you, Seattle Times

"While he was writing the first word, the middle, dotting his i's, crossing his t's, and punching his period, he knew he was concocting a sentence that was saturated with infamy and reeking with falsehood." from Mark Twain's short story "Journalism in Tennessee"

I can't remember reading anything in a local paper more distressing than this week's Seattle Times editorial "Tent City: pointless" printed on June 12, 2008.

Too bad I'm not a subscriber; I got nothin' to cancel.

The Seattle Times is wrong on many fronts:

1. Tent City saves lives.

2. There isn't enough emergency shelter in the area.

3. Twenty six hundred homeless people outside at night does constitute a public crisis.

4. The problem is growing, exacerbated by a worsening economy, a gap between entry level wages and housing costs in the area, and a Mayor who wants to spend public money moving problems around instead of solving the problems.

5. Offering people shelter is a Hobbsian choice -- shelters are institutions that must restrict personal freedom in favor of routinization: you are kicked out at 6:30 am no matter what your work and sleep schedule is.

6. No one's personal survival strategy is pointless.

BOO and HISS -- Really missed the mark, Seattle Times Editors.

And I am no big fan of Tent City. But what alternatives can you suggest?


Fort Casey

Fort Casey stands ready
to repulse
that terrorist
the Hun
whose navy
might even now sail
down Puget Sound.

"We'll stay the course
for 100 years,"
says the old soldier
before his nurse can
wheel him away,
shaking her head.

One generation's paranoia
gives way to the next
leaving empty gun emplacements,
crumbling concrete,
the shouts of children
replacing the rough shouts
of a frustrated sargeant,
attempting to mold soldiers out of boys
on a wind whipped Saturday.
Will we never learn?

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Tenting In Seattle

Do you have tents to donate?
Apparently the City of Seattle doesn't need to obey their own laws and regulations.
We've had reports this week of homeless tents being macheted (ed: this was based on Tim Harris' erroneous reporting -- the tents were disposed of. Not as dramatic, but the same outcome), despite the newly self-imposed regulations concerning homeless encampments.
If people need help surviving outside, I will equip them.
I'm really sorry I can't be at the camp in behind City Hall this Sunday night. Maybe I'll sleep in my backyard this week.

Dead Cat

I dug this out from 1996 -- it pays to clean your desk!
A young man in a bar handed me a Coke, asked to talk.
"I killed a cat," he began. "I hunt for food, I've broken a deer's neck with bare hands, to feed my family. The cat was an accident."
"It bothers you. . ."
He nodded. "I couldn't bring myself to finish her off. She was really suffering."
The great question was "Why?" Why did this innocent animal suffer and die? "I love animals."
Think about the insanity of life -- where people with houses are afraid of people without houses, and sick people are sleeping in cars. One dead cat doesn't really seem to amount to much.
And yet. Here's a guy, the usual testoterone driven, gun owning, tough guy. And he's all in knots about a dead pet.
"Could it be, that cat died to bring you closer to God?" I know it was a stretch. Theologically, I was at the edge. But there was something oddly okay about this tough guy in a tough bar telling God he was sorry about the cat, and getting some peace about it.
"Maybe I'll see that cat again, huh?" Maybe.
Won't that be a story?


Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Danny Westneat Article

Just to make sure I don't cross any lines with the Seattle Times, here's a link to Danny Westneat's column from June 1, 2008: "Homeless: New Growth Industry." (Hey, they probably need the traffic.)

From Danny's column:

Something is ragged in the Emerald City. We've had our frenzies, like the dot-coms and real estate. Now it feels like there's an anti-boom, an echo of the others.

A week ago Friday wasn't especially cold or windy or any of the other things that drive street people inside. But at Operation Nightwatch, a ministry for the homeless, it was a night for the record books anyway.

Near midnight, after finding spots to sleep for 175 people, workers gave bus tickets and blankets to 42 more. Then sent them wandering off down the street. "Every shelter and tent city was full," says Rick Reynolds, the pastor who runs Operation Nightwatch. "We called them, and they all said, 'Sorry, no more room tonight.' "


Monday, June 02, 2008

Bunko Ladies Rock!

Last night was the first of two Bunko parties.
I've never played Bunko, but it must be a blast.
Forty-eight lovely ladies, eating and drinking and playing games. The outcome is support for our work with homeless women.
Second round this Sunday night.

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