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.

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.



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