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.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

My Fifteenth Count

Counting homeless people was part of my job when I arrived at Operation Nightwatch in 1994. I'd round up a pair of homeless guys, send them out, coordinating the areas with the police department, and type up a two page report for someone in the City of Seattle. The whole deal cost about $300, not counting my time.

I got this brainstorm - using volunteers to do the count, and do it all in one night. That was 1996. We had 12 volunteers that first year, and we covered all of downtown Seattle starting at midnight. Everyone agreed, it was too early.

The next year we lined the count up with the Seattle King County Coalition on Homelessness Shelter Survey, to get a snapshot of who is homeless in King County.

We were discovered by local media, the number of volunteers mushroomed, the area of the count grew.

The great thing that we fell into was hosting a breakfast after we were done counting. Counters took over a local cafe, I chalked the whole expense up to PR, and the elected officials jumped on the band wagon. I think they've all taken a turn at counting at some point.

Last year was amazing, as people all over King County are involved in this tremendous coordinated effort. For more news on the count, click here.

Last year we found 2,631 homeless people. What about this year? Tonight at 2:00 am the fun begins.



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