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.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017


I still have this funny memory from two decades ago. I gave a talk to a lovely group of little old ladies at a church. One of their members came up to me and said, “I’d come down to help you, but I can’t run as fast as I used to!”

It was funny trying to imagine one of our homeless friends chasing this little old lady down the street. 

I’ve been in a bunch of tense situations, but fewer than you might think.

One night I told someone to take a hike. I had given him a meal and a place to go, but he wanted to hang out and verbally bother some poor woman in the dispatch center. On his way out the door, he took a cup of chowder and splashed it on my black clergy shirt. Yuck. 

The next night I was told, “Pastor Rick, that guy who gave you a bad time last night? He’s not going to be a problem anymore.”


Friday, August 11, 2017

What should I do?

People struggling with life ask me this question all the time: "What should I do?"

I have one answer. "Pray for wisdom to know God's will, and pray for strength from beyond yourself to accomplish it."

In other words, there are no easy answers when faced with difficulties. We listen through the rushing wind, the earthquake, the fire. Then it is quiet, and we still don't clearly know. Not always. Not even usually.

But I think there is something about the process, of asking, seeking, knocking. Then you go with your gut.

In the Old Testament, certain matters were settled with the Urim and Thummim. These were some sort of divine coins to flip. Heads and tails or some such.

What should I do?

Last night I said, "Pray for wisdom, in-between beers." 

I guess under the circumstances, it was the most anyone could hope for.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Car camping in the city

When rent gets too high, people often move into their vehicle. It’s portable. Provides more comfort than a tent. But also sometimes can break down. And neighbors seem to hate having homeless people on their block. There are the usual complaints about crime, drugs, litter, defecation, and noise.
The City of Seattle is of two minds. Compassion or enforcement? Neighborhood groups are kicking up a fuss – sometimes justifiable. But who is really vulnerable? It’s not like there are options for the poor people in the vans. But why do they have to throw their empty beer cans into the yard and pee in the rhodies?

As long as we have these disparities – between income and the ever-increasing Seattle rent -- cars will continue to be an affordable and attractive survival strategy. 

When I talk to people living in shelters, getting into a car is a step up for them.

There needs to be some sanity on this topic. Standards. Less hysteria. Homeless people can be part of the solution to neighborhood concerns, but not when they’re getting screamed at. Can we figure out solutions instead of screeching?