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, December 15, 2008

Ice is NOT nice

Can you hear my teeth chattering? As if helping homeless people in the frigid Seattle night isn't bad enough, the boiler for our office isn't working, and so we're turning blue today.
It didn't help that I left my window ajar over the weekend. The wind sucked it open, the snow fell, and you can see my view now.
The City of Seattle authorized three shelters to open over the weekend and through the cold snap, though only on a night-to-night basis. Women only at the Frye Apartment lobby; City Hall for men and women, and the Seattle Center Pavilion, Room B, also co ed. I heard the Frye was overflowing, but there were lower numbers at the other two places.
Every year it's the same thing. Everyone gets so excited about homeless people when it's 18 degrees outside. What happens when the weather warms up to 39? Those 100 or 150 people will be kicked out, and Nightwatch has to scramble to pick up the pieces, along with other shelter providers.
I've spent a night in a snow cave at Source Lake in February. I've spent a week camped on 10 feet of snow in the Necklace Valley, North Cascades. I've stood on the frozen banks of the Stillaguamish River fishing for steelhead in December. But the coldest cold I've ever experienced was one night last year in downtown Seattle, a fine mist falling, 38 degrees, and an army of homeless guys lined up across the street from City Hall, in the vain hope that they would have a place to go for the night. City Hall was closed for shelter that night, because the nightly hardship of being homeless did not yet reach the threshhold of misery that the city deems worthy of a response. Budget pressure you know. Yet I have no doubt that the workers in City Hall are not having to wear thermals or knit hats to get their work done, like the admin staff of Operation Nightwatch. God forbid they should turn off the heat when it's only 38 degrees outside.
Besides, we have to save money for chasing homeless people out of the greenbelts, and to send harrassing letters to churches for letting homeless people sleep in tents in their parking lots.
Now, I'm going to go light my trash can and see if I might be able to feel my fingers again.



Anonymous Dustin said...

really good post

2:42 PM  

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