Stories

Step it up

Hey, Preach. You for real? Listen to me, man. I give good advice to everyone but myself, Lord, don’t I know. I tell my friend what to do with his money, Then throw mine away. I need you to pray for me. Right now. Pray. Use the right words. It’s the right time. — I pray for his wisdom and strength Amen. You know what? This shelter is just fine. They give you food, and clothes, and a place to…

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Photo of homeless man smiling

Taking care of people

He was angry. “I don’t believe in God.” “OK, then. How’s that working for you?” I have no agenda. I’m not going to get sucked into some defense of the 700 Club, the Crusades, priest sexual abuse, snake handling, or the fundamentalist grandmother who beat the kids for wiggling at church. I explained the work of Nightwatch – tonight we took 100+ homeless people, fed them, sent them off to various shelters. I visited a tent city to bring them…

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Photo of homeless man in wheelchair

Hospitalized and homeless

Two hospital calls today, something I’m used to doing as a pastor. One guy is recovering from some sort of insect bite. A chunk was taken out of his arm which required overnight stay in the hospital. Going back to live in a tent must be awful. The other guy was discovered to have a heart valve issue. He’s a hard worker, doing physical labor. Now, what will happen to him after they open his chest tomorrow? I’m hoping there…

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Photo of homeless man asleep on a chair

Funny, but not funny.

One of my homeless friends was really drunk last night. I’ve never seen him like this before, but I heard second hand about his problem. He was sitting in a chair outside – it was pretty cold. I offered him pizza, but he was not responsive. At all. Ten minutes later, I hollered at him. He opened one eye, looked at me and said, “I love you too much to kick your butt, but I want to kick someone’s butt.”…

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Food poisoning hits… and you live in a tent

Imagine being sick while you’re living in a homeless encampment. You’re in a tent. You have limited access to running water, and a pit toilet. And then you are hit with food poisoning. Without getting too graphic, the usual things happen. Only, you’re in a tent. We showed up at a homeless camp, and this was one of several tales of woe, all health-care related. Besides the food poisoning incident, two of the 35 campers were in the hospital. One…

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Photo of homeless man lying on sidewalk

Homeless and healthcare

Danny slept outside the door of Nightwatch, while getting treatment for brain cancer. This week, I met Miles. He spends three days a week on dialysis. He sleeps in a tent. Dirk had all the usual aches and pains of a 73-year-old. These were amplified by having to sleep on a mat in a room with a bunch of other guys. The few times I’ve been laid low by surgery or illness – I’ve been in my own bed, with…

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Photo of jumper cables

Rescued

Over the weekend, I spent time in the Nightwatch shelter doing some minor renovation with a long-time volunteer. Everything about the job went better than expected. In other words, it was not an all-day ordeal. I went home and collapsed in a heap. It’s been awhile since I’ve exerted myself physically, and I’m not 40 anymore! The heat didn’t help. About 8:30 that night I roused myself and suggested to the wife that we should go get a little pampering…

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Photo of homeless man sitting on wall

Modern day leper

I placed my pizza order. We take pizzas with us when we visit the camps and shelters, and so we have to call ahead to have everything ready. When I was done placing my order, the helpful person on the other end of the phone said, “Is this Pastor Rick?” “Yes, who is this?” “This is Barney. I used to be in a camp you guys helped. Now I’m working here.” Isn’t that great? When I got to the restaurant…

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Come inside

Come inside. We don’t care if you are addicted, mentally ill, or made dumb choices. Come inside. No one should have to sleep on city streets. Summer or winter Come inside. Lay your bones down and rest in peacefulness Knowing that tonight, you will be safe. Come inside. No college-kid will kick you here, No policeman will make you move, No property manager will cuss you out, Come inside. Soothe your troubled mind. You will be among friends. We will…

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Why, oh why, didn’t I study Spanish in high school?

In 1995, I was going out on the street with a new minister, and we were checking out the 611 Tavern. It was what we called a “mixed” bar, meaning it welcomed both gay and straight drinkers. Beer, wine, pool tables, pull tabs, and dark inside. It’s long gone. My buddy and I were soon being harassed by an agitated and very drunk Hispanic guy. I’m not sure if he was mad because a couple of priests were in the…

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September 6, 2019
Photo of homeless man smiling
August 19, 2019