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, February 23, 2009

A Stop in Pueblo

Here's a story:

In 1997 I was fortunate enough to help my friend Herchel get off the street. The first thing he did: had me write a letter to Wayside Cross Mission in Pueblo. Herchel wanted me to thank them for helping him, many years ago.

For years, Herchel faithfully helped Operation Nightwatch in ways not noticed by many people. He was our gatekeeper; passing out numbered tickets so homeless guys didn't have to stand in line; mopped the floor; and later, when he moved into our apartment building, he picked up litter in the neighborhood, to keep us good with neighbors.

Herchel was a man of few words. He could barely read or write. He'd get excited and tell me things like "Saw a '57 Chevy." When he had a problem, and I couldn't understand him he would get mad. "F-ing B-S-" he would say, clear as a bell.

But despite the occasional blue language, he was a man at peace with the world. He knew his terminal disease could mean a miserable end. But his faith was an inspiration to me - and still is. Not very conventional, not churchy, but solid, real, meaningful, gritty stuff.

So, I am on vacation this week, traveling from Albuquerque to Denver. I had to pull off in Pueblo and find the "Wayside Cross Mission" and tell them the story of Herchel's life. And to thank them again for what they did for Herchel.

And for me.

Saturday, February 14, 2009


I enjoy the incantations
Of the mentally ill,
Who pray for me
In curious languages
Known only by God.

And I am buoyed by
the charismatic cadences
Of sixth grade Four Square children
Praying “Lord God, Lord God” while pressing down
Small hands upon my head and shoulders.
How they pushed! Or, was I simply weary?

But today, a different blessing was bestowed:
Truck Driver Benediction.

He looked me in the eye and shook my hand
Having faithfully delivered 3,000 homeless blankets
Compliments of the Defense Department.

“You’re doing the Lord’s work” he growled
With A Voice,
Created by Jack Daniels
And the strain of being heard
Over a twin-cam 96B Fatboy Harley.

“You’re doing the Lord’s work.”
It made the rest of my 20 hour work day
much lighter.
And that WAS a blessing.

Rick Reynolds, February 12, 2009

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Where the heck is Oscoda, Michigan?

And why does it matter?

Oscoda is a little town way up north. Not an urban center. The air force base closed down a few years ago.

Last night their town planning council decided to let the local Anglican church host a shelter. I say, good for them! Read more here.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Blankets are coming!!!!

The skeptics on the crew at Operation Nightwatch were teasing me.
"Those blankets won't be here for three months," they said.
But I knew. It's a new day in Washington. The blanket bureaucracy is now efficient and fast moving.
Which means, now we gotta problem. HELP! We've got to unload the semi when it arrives, Wednesday or Thursday this week. Handtrucks helpful.
Email me and I'll put you on the alert. It's a massive effort, takes about two hours if we get enough workers.

Friday, February 06, 2009

What's the WORST job you ever had?

That was our question tonight.
There were some interesting answers: haying, milking cows at 4:00 a.m., washing dishes.
There was a Catholic sister I knew who travelled to another city incognito to experience life as a homeless person.
A "gospel" mission had her washing dishes before letting her sleep on the greasy kitchen floor.
Most of the folks we were talking with tonight agreed that the day labor opportunities weren't too great. They treat you mean, and charge you for everything; getting to the job site, cashing your check for you at the end of the day. They take half the money that the employer pays out, right off the top. You work all day, and get to go home to your tent to rest up.
What a world.
So, what was YOUR worst job?

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Street Count finds 2,826 homeless humans

An annual count of homeless people in Seattle and other parts of King County early Friday found a slight rise in the unsheltered population from a year ago, with significant increases in the South County.

Volunteers counted 2,826 people sleeping in vehicles, structures and doorways and under overpasses, among other areas. Read more from the Seattle Post Intelligencer here, and from the Seattle King County Coalition on Homelessness here.