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, September 21, 2009


It seems like a debate that will never end. What role does government have in caring for citizens?

"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

For the knuckleheads who object to government intervention, how do you think government can "promote the general Welfare" by ignoring the desperate situation which many people find themselves in today? A nation of sharply divided "haves" and "have-nots" will not lead to domestic tranquility. Homelessness, health-care, poverty are shared problems. There will only be shared solutions. Everyone must shoulder some responsibility.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Fun with the kiddos

What a day.
I took four homeless kids to the fair for the day. Two boys, two girls, ages 7 to 12. They had a blast.
Monster Truck revved up at the gate made them jump a mile.
They went on 8-9 rides each. No one got sick!
Petting a goat for the first time. Petting a cow. Petting a rabbit. Petting a chicken. I thought we might never leave the petting area. The seven year old didn't want to stop petting.
The kids got along so great with each other. I actually got misty-eyed at their enchantment with everything. First fair they had ever been to.
What a great job I have!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

On the Edge

Like our clients, Nightwatch teeters on the edge.

Their chaos becomes our chaos, their challenges are our challenges. Today someone asked about our “strategic plan.” My answer would be “One Day at a Time.”

So much needs to be done. There are 2,800 human beings sleeping outside tonight, in Seattle/King County. On any given night, over 8,300 people are homeless when you include shelters and transitional programs. I hear talk about building new apartments as a solution to homelessness. The cost of $225,000 per unit seems as crazy as the client who was sure that his brain was being controlled by satellites, and showed me a website to prove it.

Tonight after visiting two homeless encampments to deliver pastries, and stopping in two neighborhood pubs, Pastor Dave and I looked at each other and said, "What the heck did we get done tonight?"

On the way back to our Shelter Dispatch Center, we stopped by a Nightwatch shelter. Seventy five guys were sprawled out on mats in a big room, sleeping. This is what we do. Every night.

At 11:45 one last homeless woman walks out the door with food and a new pair of socks.

No drama. But it matters. Yep.

You wanna help? Our biggest problem right now is moolah.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Ah, Life!

This week, one Nightwatch coworker sat at home, ill. The other is out for a few days following dental surgery.

For my part, my doctor announced Tuesday that there was really nothing to be done for my sore knee. “Get used to it” -- the effect of running too many miles on cement sidewalks, and the vagaries of being 56. Ah, life.

Meanwhile, a homeless buddy of mine described his descent into the 3rd level of healthcare hell. He called the ambulance to haul himself off, so debilitated he was. The ER told him it was pneumonia, gave him a prescription, and let him WALK to the pharmacy and then take the bus back at 11 pm to where he’s camping outside. IT’S INSANE.

He was still huffing and puffing when I saw him the following night. He says he’s much better. It’s our stinking healthcare system that is terminal. If it had been me, waving my Regence card in their face, they would have run tests, given me an oxygen tank, filled the prescription and handed it to me. Maybe keep me overnight.

Anyone for status quo is cracked.