Street Stories

Weblog of Seattle minister to the homeless Rick Reynolds, Operation Nightwatch

My Photo
Location: Seattle, Washington, United States

Caring for human beings seems like the best use of my time, homeless or not.

Monday, June 05, 2017

Portable toilets

Sanikans. Porta-potties. The Seattle City Council once thought there was enough of a crisis for public bathrooms in Seattle to invest in a set of self-cleaning stainless steel units at $1 million per unit. 

These became immediately popular with people looking for a place for quicky hook-ups and were a nightmare for nearby businesses. After they were removed, the portable toilets became a joke for locals and a symbol of the stupid ways our representatives can spend money.

A decade before this, I convinced the city to put a humble portable toilet in front of Operation Nightwatch. It was sort of tricky, since we were located on a very steep stretch of Wall Street at the time. The thing had to sit on skids that made it roughly level, but it sort of rocked around when a person   entered, and nightmares of tipping over and being covered in . . . whatever would run through the mind of every user. So despite the presence of the toilet, the guys would continue to pee in the alley behind Nightwatch.

“Why?” I would ask them. “No one likes to go in the sanikan, because everyone knows you’re in there.” Ok, homeless guys with shy bladders. I get that.

Then I observed something which I could not fully explain. A kitchen worker from a high-end steak place across the street (“El Gouge-o”) came out in his dress whites and used the sanikan, in front of all the homeless guys waiting in line for a cup of soup and a shelter assignment.

Explain that, if you can. Didn’t want to disturb the dining room? Drug user? Nostalgic former Nightwatch patron?

Friday, June 02, 2017


This is season of Ramadan, a holy time for our Muslim friends. This is a time for fasting, prayer, and other abstentions. There is no food eaten between sunup and sundown.
Our practice on Thursday nights has been to provide pizzas to various homeless camps and shelters. We always bring a vegetarian offering in the mix and a beef pizza because of course Muslim people will not eat pork/pepperoni.
Last night we arrived – and the crowd descended on the pizzas. But it was still light out, so my friends could not yet eat pizza. I felt so bad, because I’m pretty sure that the pizza was gone by the time it was sundown. I hope I have a way to make amends tonight – it’s a long drive to deliver a pizza just for them, but I feel it must be done, for the sake of my own heart and soul.
Who know Ramadan could impact a Christian?