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.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Earth Sunday

It's Earth Sunday.
Mists rise, primordial

A crow questions
the goodness
of a God
who requires such
hard work and suffering
while pulling out
Dick's fries
from the bag
at my bus stop.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Treats for the camp

"So Dustin, what do they need most at Nickelsville?" I waiting to hear "socks."


Ooookay. Let's see what we got in the Nightwatch kitchen. Stuff we aren't going to use to feed our hungry hordes.

Manager Ben starts pulling out loaves of bread. Like 40 loaves of bread. "We gotta clear out freezer space. How about these hot dog buns?"

Sure, we can stop and buy hotdogs. Got any peanut butter?

Great, how about jam? Ok. We're set.

I'm driving down to Nickelsville with all this good grub and I stop at the local grocer in Rainier Beach. I've got a "mystery dignitary" with me. Turns out he's vegetarian, but has no problem buying 30 or 40 pounds of hotdogs for homeless people. Thank you Mystery Dignitary for your generous act. You will be rewarded.

Even though it was "quiet time" the news quickly spread about the dogs, the buns, the relish and mustard; a fire was going in the barrel. The thankfulness for this humble provender was palpable. (I've been trying to work that phrase into my blog for years.)

Ponder a moment: why are there people hungry enough to anxiously roast weiners over an open fire at 9:30 at night? I know things are tough, but come on. Let's get meals organized for Nickelsville, ok?

Monday, April 20, 2009


Life is uncertain.

We try to insulate ourselves from that uncertainty. But in the end, we all end up as compost.

So, what really matters?

Do you think all the junk in the garage is going to matter to anyone after you're gone? They're going to have a rummage sale, and what's left over will go to Goodwill, and what ever survives that will end up as land fill. Are you sure you want to waste your life accumulating all that "stuff?"

My crisis this week is to help a family with four children find affordable housing when they have a family income of about $1,000 a month. Nice people. Just poor. A combination of bad breaks, poor health, lousy job skills have led to this crisis. But they are so dang adorable.

Isn't there someone out there with an answer for me?

Would you be willing to take a chance?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Ya gotta smile

There are plenty of reasons to feel lousy.
Tonight's message: get over it.
We got back from our night out, wondering if we had done anyone any good. At the Operation Nightwatch Shelter Dispatch Center there was still a room full of homeless guys, and the prospects for getting into shelter were looking pretty dim.
There are reasons to start ranting about the economy, injustice, addiction, lack of mental health services, whatever.
But some random homeless guy just stopped outside our door for a moment. "Are you guys Catholic?" he asked us, out on the sidewalk.
"I'm Episcopalian, he's Methodist," Fr. Kim pointed. "No one group runs Nightwatch," I chip in.
Then, out of the blue, the homeless guy smiles a million dollar smile and says, "Well, thank you for what you guys do. God bless." And off he trudged to shelter, at 11:30 pm on a night in April.
Suddenly I felt less whiney.

Friday, April 10, 2009

While you slept, I schlepped

Tonight I was God's roadie.

I picked up 125 Dick's cheeseburgers. For those uninitiated, Dick's Drive-Ins is a local chain that started about the same time as McDonalds, only never changed. Real potatoes going through the dicer to become fries, real milk and ice cream for the shakes. For 12 years now, Dick has been providing 125 fresh burgers three times a week. My job tonight: deliver these to the hungry homeless at Nightwatch. Mission accomplished. My stomach growled the whole way. (Thursday nights, 8:30 pm at Broadway Dick's. Volunteers?)

Then I found out our van driver wasn't coming. Which meant I needed to haul the new blankets to our women's shelter, and pick up (gulp) 26 garbage bags of old blankets back to Nightwatch for laundry service.

Some lovely conversations along the way with homeless folks and some of our bar friends. It was a lot of schlepping tonight, but I'm ending with a smile on my face. Thanks for making this possible.

Still looking for drivers to haul homeless women to shelter 8:45 to 11:00 or so. Always an interesting drive in our lovely van.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

More homeless seniors. . .

How can you survive on $700 a month from Social Security?

Some old folks are sleeping in their cars. Read it in the Seattle Times here:

Operation Nightwatch has 24 units for seniors, shared bath and community kitchen. Furnished room, with late night dinner thrown in for $250 a month. Must be 62+. It's amazing how many people can only afford that much rent.

I get the feeling we're about to see a huge shift in demographics in our homeless population.

The one comment though, that I found interesting. One of the interviewees wouldn't give his name: "I don't want my kids to know I'm homeless."

Something haywire there.

The guy pictured here worked for 10 years as a dishwasher before retiring in our building. Not sure where he would have ended up otherwise. . .

Friday, April 03, 2009

Slow Night on the Street

I humbly offer a poem from last April in lieu of homeless currents

Tonight April, 2008

Tonight I hugged a hooker,
And held the hand of an addict
Who assured me that everything
Was just fine;
Yet he was looking
over my shoulder
the whole time.
Tonight I breathed a prayer of blessing
In a place that smelled like beer
And piss.
Tonight I shook hands with a homeless friend
And talked baseball
Instead of asking
Why he won’t deal with
The cancer he knows
is killing him.
Tonight I listened to a carefully coiffed drunk
With lustrous skin and perfect nails
Tell me how generous she is
(to a fault)
and I wondered how much she spent
on the gold leather coat,
the face lift, the teeth,
the boobs, hidden, lurking.
Tonight I talked to workers
Who served up food and shelter for 200
But had to send away 23 men
And six women
Into the rainy night
With nothing but a thin wool blanket.
Tonight I will have to dream some impossible dream
on behalf of 29 miserable phantoms.
God help us all.