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, September 29, 2008

Nice weekend for tents!!

It was a fabulous weekend for tenting -- though the main problem for Nickelsville seems to be a) it's far removed from potable water, b) many people think it was closed down on Friday when the arrests happened, and c) food.

On Saturday I rustled up 5 cases of water, and my third pile of blankets to haul over. Then Sunday I came with housemate Mark to bring some hotdogs and buns, mustard & ketchup. It's a pretty crummy meal, but you would have thought I was bringing filet mignon. There were only enough dogs for 1 per camper. I could be mayor of Nickelsville if I had asked for a vote right then.

Which got me thinking. Is this location, as ideal as it is in terms of bus connections and lack of neighborhood resistance really sustainable.
Meanwhile, it's interesting that the Seattle Times took my editorial letter, and with the deletion of a few words, left the impression that Operation Nightwatch only served 200 people all summer, not the 180 - 200 per night that has been the norm. Look here for what they printed. I hope it's a clerical error, no attempt to minimize the problem or the work of our organization.
Saturday King 5 did a piece as well.


Friday, September 26, 2008

"We're in this together!"

Quote from Judy @ City of Seattle, just before the police swept through Nickelsville and made their arrests: "We're in this together!"

Judy was carrying the top secret shelter locations that have been put forward by the City in response to the homeless sweeps. The press is trumpeting that no one will be left out in the cold. Sure.

Well, there are those sad sack turnaways from St. Martin de Porres, Operation Nightwatch, and other shelter providers. Wish there was something to do for them. Oh well.

The "sweeps winners" will get first chance at shelter. People actually wanting to go inside for the night have to go to the end of the line.

Just remember, we're all in this together!

Just after Judy's great quote, the police came and started clearing Nickelsville. Many people simply moved to the parking lot, where it becomes a matter for the State of Washington.

Nickelsville has been given five days. Then what?


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Compass Center: $2 million for vets

Story here. Nationwide, $36 million in federal dollars was snatched out of the grasp of the bankers and put toward the ever growing homeless problem -- in this case, homeless veterans. They will build more housing, which is good, because we're about to suffer a landslide of homeless veterans when we finally extricate ourselves from the fiasco in Iraq.


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Letter to Seattle Post Intelligencer

"The City of Seattle has already given notice to the residents of Nickelsville that they have 72 hours to move out. Not sure where the city thinks people can go. Operation Nightwatch turned people away at midnight over the weekend because the shelters were full.

"This new encampment is in a beautiful spot. There is a berm that keeps the place fairly hidden from view. There are no commercial or residential properties that will be adversely affected by the presence of people there. The new village will have security, a code of conduct, hygiene in the form of garbage collection and portable toilets. Residents will be able to leave their things during the day (unlike the shelters) and residents would also be able to sleep according to their own schedule, without the pre-dawn wake-up that happens in most shelters.

"It is time for the city to recognize that homeless people are in immediate personal risk and have a basic right to safety. Nickelsville may infuriate the powerful in our city, but people are going to die this winter without it."

We'll see what happens. The underlined sentence is straight out of the 10 Year Plan.

Nickelsville location

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The #23 bus from 3rd S. & S. Main Street, or 3rd & Union will get you across the street. Here's a link to the Metro #23 schedule.

Nickelsville is access from a little parking lot at the south east corner of West Marginal Way SW and Highland Park Drive SW -- the left tip of the triangle you see above.

Feel free to call or email for more instructions.



For story and credits, here.

Yesterday I got the alert that Nickelsville was starting up. I rounded up blankets, tarps and rope and wandered around a bit before spotting the news trucks in the little parking lot next to the encampment.

It was wonderful! Beautiful spot, far removed from any retail or residences, right on the #23 bus line at the southeast corner of Highland Park Dr. SW & West Marginal Way SW.

It's tough to see because it is surrounded by a berm. There's a sense of serenity about the spot.

Let's support it, eh?


Friday, September 19, 2008

'Tent city' encampments cropping up across nation

Tent Cities all over the country. This story just a few weeks after HUD announced a drop in homelessness. Interesting. Check it out here.

woohoo WAMU

OK, banks are going belly up. But some people are already homeless.

At Tent City I ran into someone who probably knew my grandmother 30 years ago. Sheesh. Small world.

On the way back to town we came upon situation on the freeway. A young guy had a piece of someone else's car fly off from the northbound lane and strike his car, disabling it. He was in total shock. I talked to the Washington State Patrol for him, trying to explain what had happened. Meanwhile, his friend showed up to lend assistance. AAA was called.

Two more stops, one downtown, one on Queen Anne. All good.

This work keeps things in perspective. The struggle for survival of a lending institution is not nearly as gripping as homeless people struggling with daily life.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

New York: shelter a right

"City agrees homeless have right to emergency shelter." I guess I wonder how it can be that in NYC people have a right to shelter, but not in Seattle. Is the homeless situation worse here in relation to the tax base? New York story here

I think behind everyone's mind is the current economic downturn. Will people maintain the "homeless people equals drug abuser/mentally ill" outlook in the coming year?

Homeless news

Homeless pavilion outside downtown Ann Arbor church creates new headaches. Be sure to read the comments too. I find these discussions so interesting.

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Monday, September 15, 2008

Good morning!!!!

I was cruising on this morning's run (4.8 miles a day. . .) and noticed a woman in uniform across the street at a bus stop.
"Good Morning!!!" she yells in a school-marm-like sing song voice.
I almost doubled over with laughter. Thought you should know.

Thursday, September 11, 2008


It's been awhile since I was this weary. Tonight I was home for an hour at dinner, then met and gave a tour to a bunch of Methodists at Nightwatch. At 9:00 I took Aaron with me.
It was remarkable how quiet certain venues were. Tent City, people were snoring at 9:30. First bar stop, long talk with R3, but it was really dead, at least inside. The clubs seemed busy. Talked running with a friend at a third stop.
Back at Nightwatch, we served 190 people. Everyone was gone by 11:30, one guy turned away. But I guess a bunch of men hadn't shown up at the Millionair Club shelter by the cut off time of 11:00. We sent them 81 (for a 75 capacity space) and only 65 people were there at 11:30. Figure that one out. Better offer en route?
So now, I'm going to bed, and I'm going to enjoy it. I've got to be back at work at 9:00 a.m. which is barely enough time to brush my teeth.
Would you do me a favor? Sometime today check out the sleep deprivation web site and let me know what I'm doing to myself, like an executive summary? Much appreciated.


Homeless art studio opens; why not here?

The Calgary Drop-In Centre opened an art studio Wednesday, providing homeless Calgarians with a place to paint or draw.
Personally, I've seen some really great homeless art, and some really hideous homeless art.
But artistic expression can really help people cope. It's a great concept.


Apparently, we're not the only ones.

"The number of people in England who have no home to go to after being discharged from hospital has jumped by 53% in five years, the Tories have claimed.

According to research by the party, 6,204 people were recorded as having no fixed abode on discharge from hospital care in 2007, up from 4,048 in 2003." story here

And this one:

"Over recent weeks there has been a sustained, and possibly unprecedented, level of media interest in Auckland's homeless community." Yup, New Zealand. Here

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Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Those advertisers

Yah, a Toronto radio station wanted to get some buzz going for their talk radio format, so they went out and hired real true homeless folks to sit around and hold the signs instead of actually panhandling; at least I think that was the idea, since they paid them a typical panhandling day's wage, whatever that is. The hat must be for the tips, a job well done.
More here.
Meanwhile, the panhandling debate is raging in Atlanta. There a dispute with a panhandler led to a death. Whoeever heard of such a thing?
It's probably the #1 question asked of yours truly when I go out and speak. "What about panhandlers."
My friend Joe M. sees it as a survival strategy.
I guess I've been aware of panhandlers standing uncomfortably close to my neighborhood ATM. It feels a little intimidating. Is that a reason to outlaw it? Because some seedy looking guy is asking me for thirteen cents (one of our old time local panhandlers was known as 'Thirteen Cents' because that's all he ever asked for, and always with a smile).
My problem: I know too many people panhandling for self-destructive reasons. And I really don't care to provide money for a heroin fix. And I'm really weary about the guys working this neighborhood near Nightwatch because I think they interfere with traffic and distract drivers. One guy goes right out into the road so he can work the left turn lane on Dearborn at Interstate 5. I bet he doesn't have to go more than two blocks to make his drug connection.
So, do something else nice. You can provide conversation (often appreciated) or power bar/bottled water. Or, put something in the mail so Nightwatch can keep on feeding and sheltering 180 people every night. We're running about $70,000 behind expenses at the moment. There are lots of alternatives to giving the guy with the cardboard sign a buck.
But know this -- I don't always follow my own advice.


A place to learn, no place to live

The number of students who are homeless or constantly on the move is growing, prompting schools to work harder to identify them and make sure they stay in school. More here.

Like we need any encouragement

Monday, September 08, 2008

Socks and more

I love taking Nightwatch socks to Tent City 3. It seems like the neighborly thing to do -- I know there are other needs - food, for instance. But egad, a box with 100 pairs of socks sure is received with much rejoicing.

We (my brother from Alaska, Fr. Kim, and myself) hung out chatting with people. Folks are so interesting -- and as a survival strategy, TC3 is pretty good. I've never really paid much attention to the accoutrements of the tents themselves, but in giving my brother the tour, I realized that there is a level of sophistication among the campers that surpasses the term "camping."

We drove back into town, visited a bar -- I think I could have spent another hour chatting with friends here (despite the fact that this place can't keep bottled water on the shelf). So I pretty much went without. wah wah. Anyway, I met a musician dude who promised I could take guitar lessons from him, just have to figure out how to work 10 hours of practice and a lesson into my schedule. Maybe I can run my 25 miles a week with a guitar around my neck? THAT would be multi-tasking.

Here's the news:

"County pays homeless man $10,000 in civil suit." Apparently Marion County, Florida has a new panhandling law. Read the story here.

And then, homeless soccer teams: "Soccer gives the homeless a new goal"

Let me know what you think about things. Rick