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.

Friday, July 31, 2009

A shared sadness

Thursday night, the heat broke. Better
my heart. It's hardness was sadly
revealed to me, too late to do much about it.

"How's your day?"
I innocently asked
a young man,
squating along Broadway.

His pup lay beside him, dispirited.
Too tired, too hot. No wag left.
He barely lifted his head to acknowledge me.

Th weary dog's owner thought about his day.

"They pulled some girl out of the water
at Madison Park" was his answer.

His street companion was incredulous.
"No shit? You saw this?"


The brief sad tale hung there for a moment,
all of us keeping silence.

I mumbled some
lame banal blessing,
and continued on my way.
"Pray for me will you?"
he shouts down the sidewalk.

So tonight I will pray.

I will pray for a young man,
witness to one great sadness
after another in his short life.

And I will pray for myself,
for eyes to see
at once,
instead of waking up
to a lost moment
a day later.


Thursday, July 23, 2009

Tent Cities: Good Idea or Not?

Urban planner says tent communities 'no solution at all' - Article from the Sunday from the News-Gazette in Champaign, Illinois.

Psychrolutes marcidus aka "blobfish." NOT an urban planner.

It is always interesting to me that urban planners don't like tent cities. They are urban, but unplanned. "Illegal." But one big reason that we have a need for housing in every major city in America is that government is tilted toward those with power & influence. We want to only build safe housing, so we make housing so expensive that poor people, even working poor people, cannot afford to live inside.

Then, when a social conscious developer finds a "work around" (one guy in Seattle called it a "code-hack") then the neighborhood starts to whine. We don't want tents, we don't want affordable housing (check out Magnolia's NIMBY population), we don't want want subsidized housing close by. Heck, the only poor people we want are the ones who mow our lawns, bag our groceries, serve up our coffee, or flip our burgers. Let them all commute from Tukwila, huh?

Until the urban planner has a plan that works, he is going to have to contend with unplanned survival mechanisms. Life will find a way. Or something like that.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Another family to help

They were living at Nickelsville, mom, dad, and a 20-year-old developmentally disabled son.

Dad got a job offer in Tulsa, and moved in with friends there. Doesn't seem good to anyone to have the mother and the kid alone in Seattle, living in a tent.

Anyone want to chip in toward the $202 bus ticket to get the family reunited? Let me know so this doesn't drag on for a month.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Homeless Bikes in Tennessee

The Chattanooga Community Kitchen and Outdoor Chattanooga have teamed up to provide bicycles for some of the 400 to 500 people who are sleeping on streets or in shelters each night.
See story here.
I wonder how hilly Chattanooga is compared with Seattle. Can't really see homeless people pumping up the hill to Nightwatch from Pioneer Square, but who knows?
When we were located in Belltown a decade ago, we did have a few homeless guys on bicycles. It beats walking everywhere. But doubtful that the shelters have bike racks.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Awful responsibility

Operation Nightwatch got a check with this note: "Rick - no return envelope, so am sending $10 again. Can afford to -- am now getting $16 food stamps. Thanks for your prayers."
Imagine the sense of awful responsibility that is mine, in spending that $10 to take care of homeless people.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

What I do for a living. . .

A punkster at a downtown tavern was talking about his new “do” -- shaved his head except for a spiky ridge down the middle, and I asked him how he got his hair to stand up like that and he starts to rubbing it between the palms of his hands, like you might rub a balloon against your chest to get it to stick to the ceiling, and sure enough after enough rubbing his hair was standing about 6 inches straight up in the air.

I said something about getting a haircut or growing a pony tail and he says no, and starts rubbing his hands around and around and around in my hair. Guys at the bar starting to notice me standing there with my hair going wilder and wilder, the bartender stops pouring, starts laughing, and the pool players stop and the guy at the jukebox turns and even some guys on the back wall start chuckling and the punk’s hands are swirling around and around and he stops and I can see myself in the back bar mirror and it's not too bad and I think “I'm never going to buy gel again and to heck with getting a haircut.”

How can I explain what I do for a living?

Friday, July 03, 2009

Medical Crisis?

It was well after midnight in Pioneer Square, downtown Seattle.

I'm walking the Nightwatch beat in my clerical collar. At the corner of First and Yesler, I see a homeless guy on his back, flopping around like a fish in the bottom of a boat.
Now, having worked for a few years in a health care setting, I've seen lots of people having seizures. This guy looked like he was having a tonic-clonic episode.
I lean over him. "Hey, buddy! Buddy! You all right?"
Now, if he WAS having a seizure, he's not going to speak to me, so I'm not sure what I thought. His eyes were closed and by this time he's jerking, jerking, jerking.
He opens one eye and looks at me, hovering over him, worried.
"I'm . . . just. . . working. . . on. . . my. . . abs."
Alrighty then. . . on to the next crisis.