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.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Late night calls

Sort of comes with the territory.

Mostly advisory, someone dealing with a crisis. Possible domestic violence situation. Female at risk. Horrible horrible. Homeless.

Arrangements had to be made. Which involved a late night trip out to a shelter.

Geez what a world. I hope the young person can move beyond the disaster.

Friday, October 24, 2008

T for Texas

Last night I took a visiting Lutheran with me to do my Thursday night rounds. A LUTHERAN FROM TEXAS!

Like hoot owls at 3rd and Pine. Rare.


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Big Bill Broonzy can play circles around Tim Harris.

Dithering about

There's a world of homeless stuff, of which I am only dimly aware.

This morning I was invited by Bill Block to speak with the Governing Board of the Committee to End Homelessness in King County.

"Economic Crisis and Trends in Housing & Homelessness" was the topic.

Sue Sherbrooke brought a page full of statistics. It was all very informative - demand for services are on the rise.

I felt like I'd fallen off the turnip truck.

Luminaries? Ron Sims, Dan Brettler (Car Toys), former governor Mike Lowry, former mayor Norm Rice. Gates Foundation this, United Way that.

After Sue & I said a few words, Jon Fine from United Way talked about a range of responses that were in place. All very needful. All very removed from the world I live in.

I told the group about the problem we face. Tonight, very likely, we will have to turn 20 guys away. I want to be able to tell those 20 guys where they can go to be safe for the night. I know they can't go to the parks. I know they can't obstruct an exit from a building. Where can they go?

Suddenly tent cities don't seem like such a bad survival alternative, do they? I'm pretty sure the people in power had no idea what I was talking about. All discussion ceased.

With that, I got back on the turnip truck, and bounced on down the road.

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Friday, October 17, 2008


Last night I took Dustin (who looks pretty darn good in a collar) and we visited TC3 and Nickelsville, bringing knit hats.

Later we stopped at a couple bars.

Times are tough right? More homeless people, and the world of the bars are starting to intersect with the whole homeless thing in a new way. Real estate is in the dumps, so people who make their living -- or used to -- are really scrambling to figure out their next move. (God preserve us. Things could be worse.)

Anyway, while driving around on Thursday night I was aware of clusters of the "beautiful people" around the doorways of posh nightclubs: willowy blondes in skimpy outfits, bad boys with just the right amount of stubble. There's just a whiff of 1930s Berlin in the air, waiting for all hell to break loose, not willing to admit that there's a lot more rotten in the city than the value of the stock portfolio.

Meanwhile, our Mayor has directed his minions to serve notice to a Christian congregation that they are going to be fined for providing care to homeless people in their parking lot. We don't have more city money for emergency shelter. But we do have money for police and prosecutors and jailers and judges. What a waste of time and resources.

If I were in city government, I'd be a little worried about lightning strikes.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Ban on public tenting by homeless struck down

Before you get too excited, read the story here. We're talking Canada. Two hours drive, plus passport and border crossing.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Why Are More Older Americans Sleeping in Their Cars?

You don't really think about AARP as being the source for homeless news, right? Well here you go.


Shelters run out of space - in Vermont!

BURLINGTON, Vt. -- Some of Vermont's homeless shelters are filling up and having to turn people away.

Rita Markley, executive director of the Committee on Temporary Shelter, said from June to August COTS turned away 42 families and 75 single adults. Read more here.


Friday, October 10, 2008

This is what it's come to

The people in the tents are going to be the lucky ones.

Tonight at Operation Nightwatch we fed and found shelter for about 160 men and women. Oh yeah and a baby.

But 16 men got turned away. No shelter availble for them tonight. They got blankets and bus tickets to ride around.

Can't we figure something out?

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Space or Editorial Bias? Hmmmmmmm.

My letter to the editor of the Seattle Times (9/27/08) was abriged in an interesting way: They left out the bold print clauses, below:

"The shelter system is over capacity citywide ["Seattle doesn't deserve this pink tent city," Times, Local News, Sept. 24]. On Tuesday, Operation Nightwatch could not find emergency shelter for 24 men and women. Some nights this summer we served more than 200 people, the most in 40 years. Other agencies are reporting similar trends. Given the current economy, things may get worse before they get better.

"So why is there such resistance to homeless people getting organized and camping out on vacant and unused public land? They have not asked for money from the city. Portable toilets and garbage collection are privately provided. Even the industrial neighbors are supporting this move.

"Our 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness developed with input from the City of Seattle says that homeless people "are at immediate personal risk and have a basic right to safety. Interim survival mechanisms -- services focused on keeping people alive ... are necessary until such time that affordable permanent housing is available to all."

"Yes, they're playing politics with the name. It's unfortunate. But the pink tents would keep people alive this winter, with more comfort and dignity
than is being provided by Interstate 5 and Kinnear Park.

"I say, leave them alone."

The net effect of the Times changes:

-- Nightwatch goes from serving as many as 200 people each night to serving 200 for the whole freaking summer.

--eliminates community support for Nickelsville -- an important truth that neighbors at the original location did not complain about the pink tents, some wrote letters of support and resources were there for support services in the short term.

--neglects to inform readers that the City of Seattle helped to write the 10 Year Plan, including the referenced lines about personal security and interim survival strategies.

The question for readers: Were these changes for the sake of space? Or does it reflect editorial bias?

No response from the Seattle Times.

Nickelsville: N'Ville: Anvil

Apparently the hammer is NOT going to fall this week.
"Nickelsville" residents were warned by the city that they had to move the pink tents from Discovery Park (Ok, actually they're behind the Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center), but instead of coming out and arresting people again, they will be allowed to move out on Friday (that's tomorrow, October 10, 2008) which is the arrangement they made with the United Indians of All Tribes folks.
Stay tuned.

Homeless News

"traumatic brain injury may be a causal factor that contributes to the onset of homelessness, possibly through cognitive or behavioural sequelae of traumatic brain injury. . .” Toronto report here.

Organization wants $4M for homeless shelter in Columbus, South Carolina. There's something about this article that wants to incite tax-payer revolt me thinks. Read it here.

So much internet homeless stuff is rehashed press releases from larger organizations who can afford to keep a press person on staff to crank out info which is accepted by local media. Anyway, believe it or not, social workers get homeless people off the streets in Atlanta. Extra, Extra, read all about it here! The article is a good read, though they should fire the photographer. What the heck is that pic showing, anyway?

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Great Depression

It was sad/happy today.
Big John has been in a nursing home for like nine months. We were pretty sure he wasn't going to come back to the Nightwatch building where he's been living since retiring from dish washing, if not longer. Not quite 20 years he lived here.
But Big John's body is wearing out. He's in a world of hurt. Not really sick, just tired at age 78.
So, his daughter and her family came up from Colorado to bring him home to live with them.
So, you have to picture this. The Grandpa in the front seat of the camper-van, his pee bag hanging from a hook on the dash board. The five kids under age 5. Mom. Dad. They stopped by Nightwatch to say their goodbyes. And to pick up the remains of Big John's stuff.
Only problem, a camper van that's already holding seven people cannot add a sick grandfather and his worldly goods, no matter how modest the amount.
We agreed to sort through things, ship it to them, after they crammed the essentials in (mostly fishing gear, he still has hope). But as they left the Nightwatch parking lot for the long drive home, I felt sad to say a final goodbye to John, but happy for his new life. Already his grandkids are all over him. They were so excited.
But geez are they poor. Lord, keep them safe. Those five babies. Big John. Mom & Dad. All strapped in.

Fellini-esque moment

I was leaving the house to do my Thursday night "rounds."

"Hey, there's something in the squirrel trap!" Now before all my bleeding heart liberal friends think I've gone to the dark side, it's a live trap. I remove the squirrel to various neighborhoods.

Tonight, though, no squirrel. A rat. 2nd one this week, and third in a month. This is after 20+ years of setting squirrel traps. Never before has anything like this happened.

So I'm walking down the alley in the Central District, my rat in a cage, wearing my clerical collar, and trying to juggle things to talk to my wife on a cell phone.

hehehehehe. The people driving down the alley were staring, driving very slowly.