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, July 30, 2008

More to worry about

homeless cats Yikes.

The Song

{Every once in a while I have to post something I like unrelated to my usual topics - RR}

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.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

CAUTION: Rant to follow

There's a crisis brewing in the good old U.S. of A.

It's not just about the burst bubble in real estate, the credit crunch, the exportation of jobs overseas, and political corruption based on campaign dollars (ie bribes).

We have lost track of fairness.

Those of us with money complain about taxes, complain about poor people and their housing subsidies. We create a system that tolerates people living like animals outside because they can't earn enough to live inside, and berate them when they give up and turn to drugs and alcohol to numb the physical and psychical pain, or when mental illness undercuts their ability to earn a living wage. We don't really want to get people into their own apartments and out from underneath bridges, because we resent the fact that it takes public money to make this happen.

But what if I told you that middle and upper classes in this country enjoy billions more in government largesse through our mortgage interest deductions we claim every year. Way more help comes to people of means through this system than is ever delivered to poor people with no options, sick people who can't work, and the wage slaves who provide us with cheap services -- burger flippers, maids, and nursing aides.

Why is slavery illegal, but paying someone $8 an hour without providing health care or a place to live is okay? Why should someone have to live in their car when they work everyday? "Loss of jobs?"

If we paid people $1 an hour we could have full employment and still starve.

I hate using Henry Ford as an example of enlightened tycoon, but as horrible as his politics were, he saw the wisdom in creating a work force that could afford to purchase the product they were producing.

Watch for greater emphasis on home security and police state, as the inequities continue to grow.

Wake up, people

'Extreme Makeover' house faces foreclosure

Well. Give them a house, they mortgage it to pay for a business start up, and here's the result. Wouldn't you be a tad iritated? Read more here.


Wanted: A Place to Sleep

Posted yesterday at 6:12 pm by Aimee Curl

Time is running out for the residents of SHARE Safe Haven. After three years of living in the federal INS building in SoDo (above), they were kicked out last month— an unfortunate consequence of the sprawling 77,000-square-foot space being purchased by a group of Seattle developers and investors last spring. Safe Haven's 30 homeless men and women were able to find temporary space at St. James Cathedral on First Hill, but their arrangement for sleeping there ends Aug. 25th. Unless somebody steps up, they'll be on the street in less than a month.
The shelter is a nighttime, emergency-only operation that's been able to find space in and around Pioneer Square for 14 years. The group is self-managed. Walk-ins are not admitted. Occupants are screened at a separate location and organizers ensure that they arrive no earlier than 7 p.m. and disperse before 8 a.m. each day. Sobriety is required. No daytime loitering is allowed.

Safe Haven residents have spent months writing letters to everyone from city, county and port officials, to property owners like Qwest Field and Harborview Medical Center. Either they've received no response, or they've simply been told "No."
"Unfortunately, I must tell you that there is no county property that can meet your needs at this time," King County Executive Ron Sims said in a letter dated July 7. And Alan Painter, interim director of Seattle's Human Services Department, encouraged Safe Haven residents to keep their search "as broad as possible, including alternatives outside City property and in other neighborhoods," before reminding them that "annually the City of Seattle spends more than $40 million to fight homelessness"— and that the mayor's Ten-Year Plan to end Homelessness is making progress.


The people who depend on Safe Haven aren't giving up hope yet. Though it may take 30 more people sleeping under the interstate— and not carefully crafted letters— to get this town's attention.

Thank you Aimee, for helping get the word out about yet another crisis. If there was a fire and thirty middle class people were displaced, the whole community would respond with resources. But this "disaster" caused by short sighted public officials, greed, and lethargy, is generating a collective yawn so far. "Just more homeless people displaced, oh well."
Why can't the government entity selling this property require that accomodations for 30 homeless people be worked into the development plan?


Monday, July 28, 2008

Judge clears way for Mercer Island tent city

MERCER ISLAND, Wash. -- A judge has denied a request for a court order to stop a homeless camp from moving to Mercer Island.

Murder and mayhem to follow?


Homeless concern Glenwood Springs Tourism Board

Why use the category of "homeless" to describe the problem, if only certain members of the community's homeless population are causing problems? Why not say "public drunks" instead?

"Tijm said things like public drunkenness on buses, panhandling, harassment and a recently publicized bat-beating at a transient camp on the hills near Glenwood Springs discourage tourism and give the town a bad name. But he believes only a small portion of the homeless actually cause problems."

"Tourists crossing the pedestrian bridge seeing images of homeless people waking up from a night in a sewer pipe isn't exactly the image tourism promoters want to market for Glenwood Springs." More on this tourist mecca here.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Fresno Homeless News

"The City of Fresno and attorneys for several homeless people were back in court on Friday.
Lawyers with the ACLU will hammer out a settlement with the City of Fresno. They represented dozens of homeless people who lost their belongings when the city cleared out some homeless camps.

The City of Fresno agreed to pay more than $2 million last month but Mayor Alan Autry criticized the deal, causing the judge to consider throwing out the settlement.

The federal judge called Mayor Autry into court and the settlement is back on track and should be finalized soon." It's true

Will this mean anything for the City of Seattle? Will they continue to treat homeless people's survival gear with contempt? How about WSDOT? Parks? Anyone else?


Officials: Denver won’t hide homeless during DNC

Apparently Denver has homeless people too, and to keep them out of harm's way while the Democrats are in town, everyone is going to extraordinary lengths to help them.
Why the heck can't that happen all the time? Check it out here


Tent Vs. Pub

I stopped off at Tent City last night, and sat around in the smoking tent hobnobbing with various residents.

It was all quite pleasant.

Later, at one of our stops, someone wanted to know "what's the deal" with people living in tents, are they just there, comfortable, not really moving on with life?

As I walked away with my friend, he made an interesting observation. "The people at Tent City were personable, honest, open. There was a sense of community."

We agreed. Why don't we get that same feeling of community everywhere? Could it be that some people are stuck where they're at, despite being able to throw down $30 for drinks every night?


Thursday, July 24, 2008

Church creates controversial homeless shelter

"Westgate Tabernacle's Bishop Avis Hill says the church is just trying to accomodate the needs of the homeless. He explains the tough economy is forcing more women and children out of their homes and they're coming to the shelter." Can't do the right thing without causing a stir. Read more about suburban West Palm Beach here.


Homeless win battle, but the war rages on

From Rome to Modesto, California. Apparently we're at war, thus the headline from the Modesto Bee (and what a great name for a newspaper!).

Police arrest park-sleeping homeless people. It comes down to a jury trial, and they vote against conviction. Full article here.

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Miss Eva's hot meals at The Wall in peril

61-year-old has become a second mother for Charlotte's homeless people.

When gentrification comes to the neighborhood, what will the outdoor feeding program do? The new businesses in the area complain, and the police show up, but Miss Eva just keeps on going.

What a person! Read more here

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Rome’s crackdown on homeless

Apparently catering to tourists is the new trend in Rome. No more bathing in the fountains, but then, you're going to pay $16.50 to simply walk the historic streets. More here.


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Seven years for murder of homeless man.

EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. — A Granite City teen faces seven years in prison for his role in the beating death of a homeless man for a can of beer.
Nineteen-year-old Brandon Carol Bouck was sentenced Tuesday in Madison County court.
Bouck and Joseph Lee Raines pleaded guilty earlier this year to fatally beating 48-year-old Thomas Muffler.
Authorities say the teens punched and kicked Muffler last October after he refused to buy them beer. After the beating, the teens stole a 24-ounce can of beer from Muffler.
Muffler suffered broken ribs that penetrated a lung; he later died from pneumonia.
Bouck's attorney John Rekowski says it was a tough case and Bouck accepts the sentence.
Raines is scheduled to be sentenced next week.


As economic woes mount, homeless plan to vote

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Single mother Mary White worked as a sales clerk until the bank foreclosed on the home she rented.
Tossed out on the street with her six boys, she lost her deposit and her job. Now she is revved up to vote in November. "My situation is going to make me want to vote even more," she said.
"I want to say that this should not be happening to people in America, and I am very angry and upset about it."
White, 42, is among many homeless people eager to cast a vote in an election year dominated by the shaky U.S. economy and a deepening housing crisis.
full article click here.

Friday, July 18, 2008

What does it mean?

I am intrigued with dreams.

Last night I dreamt I was driving up into the mountains to go fishing with my dad and his friend Leonard. Now this is not a remarkable thing, I have fished with these two many times, even in the past few years, in real life. Maybe the dream difference is the presence of wife and son. (Oddly, his age changes in my 'dream world' to accomodate the plot -- in real life he's 22)

In my dream we arrived at a beautiful spot. On the left side of the road, a lake with lots of fishing going on. On the right side of the road another lake, or maybe the same lake, somehow. But no people are fishing on the right side, though the water looked clear and beautiful.

"There is where the fish are" was the explanation I was given about people fishing on the left.

My set up wasn't very good, just a hook and a worm. I was skeptical of any good outcome.

Maybe here's the answer to what it means: I'm someone who always wants to fish on the opposite side from everyone else. I understand the contrarian, the innovator, the tilter at windmill types, the underdog. I want to find fish in odd places, redeem the irredeemable, fall in love with those under-loved.

Ah, yes. So satisfying. I highly recommend it.

Instead of loving people who love you back, try loving people who can't love, who have perhaps never been loved, or who will be surprised by love. If you can do that, you are much more like God than the rest of us.


from the archive, 4/17/08


Tonight I hugged a hooker,
And held the hand of an addict
Who assured me that everything
Was just fine;
Yet he was looking
over my shoulder
the whole time.

Tonight I breathed a prayer of blessing
In a place that smelled like beer
And piss.

Tonight I shook hands with a homeless friend
And talked baseball
Instead of asking
Why he won’t deal with
The cancer he knows
is killing him.

Tonight I listened to a carefully coiffed drunk
With lustrous skin and perfect nails
Tell me how generous she is
(to a fault)
and I wondered how much she spent
on the gold leather coat,
the face lift, the teeth,
the boobs, hidden, lurking.

Tonight I talked to workers
Who served up food and shelter for 200
But had to send away 23 men
And six women
Into the rainy night
With nothing but a thin wool blanket.

Tonight I will have to dream some impossible dream
on behalf of 29 miserable phantoms.
God help us all.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Gasp. Homeless People in West Seattle!!!

Various community discussions around the "why" of homelessness always seem to revolve around issues related to chronic homelessness: mental health, drugs, alcohol, and invariably, Level 3 sex offenders.

Not much about wage disparity and poverty, which is the number one reason why people are homeless. So as long as we treat workers as disposable fodder and don't have any sort of reasonable health care system in place, we will continue to see families falling apart, people taking desperate risks to survive, or giving up and living in the woods near Camp Long.

I think I need another few weeks in the woods.

Friday, July 11, 2008

On Vacation

Sorry about the lack of entries, but I've been in the deep woods lately.
It was weird to be in my tent in Pend Oreille County, remembering the last time I was in my tent -- in downtown Seattle, behind City Hall.
This is definitely quieter, although there is a pair of ravens who shriek at each other, sounding like two maniacs at first light.
Such is life.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Margaret Mead

Someone asked the great anthropologist Margaret Mead, "What is the first sign you look for, to tell you of an ancient civilization?"

The interviewer had in mind a tool or article of clothing. Ms. Mead surprised him by answering, "A healed femur."

When someone breaks a femur, they can't survive to hunt, fish, or escape enemies unless they have help from someone else. A healed femur indicates that someone helped that person, rather than abandoning them and saving themselves.

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