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.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

A Christmas story from yesterday

Need a little Christmas cheer? Here's a story from someone out buying gloves as presents for our homeless friends at Operation Nightwatch:

I am at Sears buying gloves (Costco was sold out). A man approaches me asking why I am buying so many gloves. I tell him they are for Nightwatch and he says "Oh good, I will go there tonight. Someone stole my tent and I'm cold."

I told him to pick out any gloves he wanted and I would get them for him on the spot. He couldn't believe it and started telling everyone that passed, "She is an angel, I found an angel." My young son wished him Merry Christmas. My other son helped count the gloves to make sure we had enough for ALL the homeless men.

Thank you for inspiring the life lesson of helping others. Kristie

Friday, December 18, 2009


Sometimes I leave Nightwatch at the end of the night feeling so great about what happened.

Not last night.

It had promise. Tent City friends, bar patrons, everyone was in a holiday mood. Much good cheer.

We got back to the Nightwatch shelter dispatch center. "People responding to internal stimulus" is the clinical term. Nightwatch is where mentally ill people go because there is not much of a system to help them.

Outside, a woman asks for a hotel voucher. Just had surgery. She fears infection. She wants a place to rest during the day, and oh yeah, where she can be with her man. Can we help her for a week?

This sort of request kills me. What she wants is $300 worth of hotel vouchers. I got nothing for her. I hate saying no. Sometimes I don't have a choice. We have shelter space for her, space for her man. Just not in the same place. And not so much comfort either.

My Christmas balloon went poof.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Crazy numbers

Crisis, economic meltdown, unemployment.

This is supposed to drive the number of homeless people through the roof, right?

Well, there are some old-school shelters wondering where all the homeless people are. Numbers are down.

We've got theories. And that's all they are at this point. Alien abduction is not on the list.

Landlords may be getting less picky. If you've had an eviction, for any reason whatsoever, it follows you. Landlords won't rent. In fact the system is crazy. If a previous landlord takes you to court, and you win your case (that is, the landlord loses), the very fact that you were taken to court will be in the record, and will make it hard for you to rent ever again. But with the dicey economy, landlords may be more willing to go with a person who has cash in hand, even with a spotty rental history.

Domestic tranquility may be required. Homeless people talk about their situation. "Why you homeless?" I ask. Sheepish look. "My old lady kicked me out." When things are really tough, you might put up with that annoying boyfriend/roommate/cousin/spouse, just to stay off the street. "I can't kick them out, I need their share of the rent." Or something like that.

More resources in the hinterland. "Homeless" in Seattle used to mean 1st Avenue, Pioneer Square, and environs. But the homeless population is present now in suburban communities, small towns, and rural areas. The services are starting to grow outside of downtown. Tent City in Redmond? Shelters in Kent? This would have been unheard of fifteen years ago. There may be plenty more homeless people, but they're further scattered.

Better outplacement. Don't hate me, but there could be better outplacement, thanks to the efforts of the Committee to End Homelessness in King County, and the 10-year plan. People in shelters get into transitional programs and permanent housing faster. It might be true. I'd like to think so.

Ah, well. The One Night Count is coming up, January 28/29, 2010. We shall see.

Tent City remains full.