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, February 16, 2013

More old people

It's ominous.

I'm not talking about meteors streaking across the Russian sky.

The numbers of homeless seniors at Nightwatch is creeping upward. Two years ago, 12% of those we served were aged 55 and up.

In 2012, nearly 17% of the people we served were 55+. 

Compare the public costs of nursing home care vs. homeless shelter sometime, and get back to me, will you?

Friday, February 15, 2013

My Crazy Valentine

I had everything planned out.

My co-worker was going to cover me at night.

I put together a nice picnic dinner, with silverware and fancy plates, some blankets and firewood. A romantic private feast, with a little reading of Dickens via my kindle.

Gasworks Park would be perfect - fireplace and covered tables.

My Valentine of 37 years helped me lug all the stuff from the parking lot to the picnic area. It's brightly lit, not what I had in mind. I started building the fire, and soon a half-dozen homeless guys were chatting us up, giving advice on the construction of my fire, talked with us about police and out-of-control teens, and cool parks department workers.  The next 90 minutes was all about love. We passed the Triscuits and swiss cheese around, fresh black berries were appreciated, and grapes. And Cheetos too.

When it was time to go, we decided that Richard needed the blankets worse than we did. We left the extra food with Steve. The others had drifted off to get settled in for the night, or make a final run to the market for beer.

Down the way, a drum circle was forming.

Yup. Just another fabulous Valentine's Day in the city.  My wife loved it. "Why be normal?"  That's us.

Compassionate 8-year-old

What did you do for your eighth birthday?

I can't remember back that far. I know there was cake, brothers, grandmother, some kids from the neighborhood and kids from church.

And presents. Lots of presents.

Young Nathaniel here wanted to do something different for his 8th birthday. He decided that instead of buying presents, his guests should make a donation to a homeless program, and he picked Operation Nightwatch.

So this week, Nathaniel stopped by with checks and cash in the amount of $351 for shelter. How cool is that?

He is a student at TOPS School. He didn't know that the eighth-graders came to Nightwatch two afternoons this week to bake cookies for Valentine's Day for homeless folks. Nice synergy.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

An Old Pen

When I came to Operation Nightwatch in 1994, there was a shoebox full of pens, used for writing thank you notes to donors, and shelter referrals to get people off the street, and hotel vouchers for families.

I love these pens, primarily because the name of the organization was misspelled. Did you notice it?

Amazingly, this survivor is still functioning, nearly 20 years later.

So appropriate. Every pen deserves a chance. God bless the survivors among us.

Thank you for making this program possible, through your interest, prayers, and support.

Monday, February 04, 2013

Hatchet-wielding homeless hitchhiker took down man claiming to be Jesus

Do you really need the details on this one?

Here is the full story - not for the faint of heart.

Other than the expletives, the homeless hatchet hero had this to say in the interview: "No matter what you've done, you deserve respect. Even if you make mistakes, you lovable. And it doesn't matter your looks, skills, or age, your size or anything -- you're worthwhile. No one can ever take that away from you."

Friday, February 01, 2013

Anxiety, coffee, and street life

I took my friend "Dudley" to his weekly meeting with a counselor.  Dudley is a terrific guy, but suffers mightily from bad brain chemistry, which plays out with obsessive behaviors and anxiety. It's a terrible affliction.  Medication helps, but still leaves him with an abiding sense of dread.

Today, like other days, he stays within a few feet of a toilet. He has a sense of urgency, and is really afraid of having an accident (which hasn't happened ever when I'm with him driving around for an hour or more).

I told him that I wasn't drinking much coffee lately. I had the flu last week, and could not stand to drink more than 1/2 cup - and I've pretty much been on reduced coffee portions since. But he went into the little store next to his counseling appointment and bought a 12 ounce cup of coffee. He confessed to me that he drinks a lot of coffee "because I'm bored, mostly."

Between the addicts on the block, and his coffee drinking revelation, and the general jittery-ness of that part of downtown, I wonder how much caffeine might be contributing to his anxiety.