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, November 17, 2008

Seattle Channel - on Tent Cities

Want to see Pastor Rick on television? (I know, big deal). But it's an interesting discussion, including an interview with Linda, a woman who has been homeless 18 years. She has her own portable box and shopping cart arrangement. To see the piece, click here.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Rough Times

This is what it must look like, these bad times.

Last night a family with four kids showed up at Operation Nightwatch. Mom, Dad, four towheads. And they had ID and the last names all matched for everyone. Didn't seem like there was any monkey business going on.

They've been in a jam for awhile. Wifey was very quiet. "In and out of hospital," the hubby explained. He was the talker.

We drove to St. James, where their car died in a school bus zone. We managed to push the car into a parking spot where tickets and towing were less likely.

Dad works as a day laborer. But he was limping as he walked around. "Arthritis," he explained.

We gave them three nights in a hotel on Aurora. After that, what?

Anyone want to argue about the value of a bandaid?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Last Chance - Hero of the Homeless

Today we looked at the first cut of the video. Unbelievable. White Noise Productions hit another one out.

Come to our luncheon Nov. 25 at the Seattle Center Rainier Room (Northwest Rooms) noon to 1:00 pm. Free box lunch, see the video, make a donation. Really short and sweet. RSVP here. or let me otherwise know this week.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Homeless interviews

Tonight we interviewed Nightwatch folks for our new video. "Where you from? What sort of work have you done? What makes a good day for you? What do you think about Nightwatch?"
These sort of questions. Of course, not everyone was homeless. Some of our charming apartment residents made some interesting statements. Work related.
I thought one woman would cry, talking about her kids - they aren't with her. She told someone she just got out of detox. But the room seemed to be moving around for her. Not sure if she said anything we could use. She was "responding to internal stimuli" - that is, hearing or sensing things that weren't really happening, as far as any of us could tell.
Our intent with the DVD is to show how homeless people are not so different than you or me. And I think this is generally true. But OMG. They were brilliantly, brutally honest about the price they have paid for drinking and bad choices in general.
Surprisingly, there was a little resistance (we offered $5 per interview, which took maybe 10 minutes). And no one seemed to mind signing the waiver.
I wonder if any of them read it.
I'm off to bed at 12:30 a.m. while listening to the wind roar. Dear God, please keep me off the street. It's a hard knock life.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Samwise Gamgee

"It's like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo, the ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were, and sometimes you didn't want to know the end because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end it's only a passing thing this shadow, even darkness must pass. A new day will come, and when the sun shines it'll shine out the clearer." A nice post-election quote, eh? May the darkness truly be passing.

Thursday, November 06, 2008


It's a miserable stormy November night. One of the women's shelters is closed because of an infestation of bed bugs.

I'm thinking, given a choice, the women might have prefered the discomfort of getting bit, to sleeping outside in an alley with a gray wool blanket. Or putting themselves in harms way in some other way.

Meanwhile, I'm staying home for a second Thursday night in a row, sick. Shout out to my tent city and bar buddies. Hope to get back to 100% soon. Call me if you need anything!

Plus, my wifey is gone for another five days. Sniff.

Monday, November 03, 2008

mmmmmmm. Pie

It was a crazy weekend, political ads, hacking cough, wife in Africa, preaching to Lutherans, driving to Arlington for horrid "mongolian" food at a strip mall.
But there were two highlights: pumpkin pie at Vashon's Back Bay Inn for Halloween, and mom's homemade pecan pie yesterday afternoon.


Saturday, November 01, 2008

Nightwatch survives

The first six months of our existence, back in 1967-68, the street ministers weren't very well received in downtown Seattle. There was a bunch of craziness downtown, way more craziness than now. Over 100 little neighborhood taverns and bars dotted the downtown landscape. Poor people were able to survive downtown because there were still a bunch of cheap apartments available, the sort of places you could just plunk the rent down and move in - a steel bed frame and old cotton mattress, stained and cigarette holes. Hot plate, refrigerator, a chair. One room, that's it. It was ridiculously cheap. If I told you, you wouldn't believe it, like an old geezer going on about nickel loaves of bread.

Anyway, guys were getting punched, people were sure we were just policemen trying a new twist - narcs looking out for drug trade, stuff like that. So street chaplains were getting stitches here and there.

One day our founder, Bud Palmberg was walking Pioneer Square. Some rookie cop was having a hard time controling a hooker and asked for help. Pastor Bud made it clear, "That's not what we do."

Later, that same hooker was having a rough time of things, and remembered the street minister. She had the bartender call Nightwatch. Bud showed up at the bar, where she was working as a go-go dancer. (Guys had to have more imagjnation those days.) When Pastor Bud walked into the bar, a couple of toughs shoved him out. He came back in, they shoved him out again. "We don't want your kind in here," they told him. He came back in, and this time these two thugs took Bud out in the alley. He stood up on his tip-toes, with a knive under his chin.

But the bartender saw what happened. He pulled the plug on the music, the go-go dancers stopped, everyone is yelling. "They've got our minister out in the alley!" the bartender yelled. Everyone rushed out and started beating up the two thugs. When he tells the story, Bud says,
"They were smashing pumpkins on the ground." He intervened to save his assailants, and he was able to talk with the troubled young lady.

Ever since that day, attacks on the street ministers are few are far between.