Camp

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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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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Regrets

There was a gathering of activists from the faith community yesterday, to meet with the new Mayor of Seattle, Jenny Durkan. I had two minutes. I blathered, dang it. The one thing I should have said: “Stop sweeping homeless camps if you don’t have options to offer people!” Every day outreach workers and police are identifying places where homeless people have taken up residence. They are given advanced warning (or so we are told) in the hopes that they will…

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Devoted

As long as I can remember, homeless people have been very devoted pet owners. It isn’t unusual that they take better care of their pets than they take care of their own needs. The pet is often the last vestige of “normal” life – a reminder of happier times. And the loyalty and joy of that animal is welcome by those that are getting kicked around by life and the community. A pet does complicate life however. I met a…

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They all have names

Every homeless person has a name. They came from some sort of family. Every homeless person has hopes, dreams, and stories to tell. Last night I ran into a guy I’ve known for almost 20 years. He used to work at Nightwatch. He hasn’t been able to work, due to a health problem. Last night was his first night of being homeless in a tent community. “Frank” thought our chance encounter was proof that God was looking out for him.…

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Balance

The art of balancing a life beset by odd angles of poverty, illness domestic violence bad brain chemistry poor nutrition lack of sleep humiliation, sorrow, PTSD, addiction, learning disabilities, social anxiety bad luck; It’s more than I could contend with. And it is understandable when the whole thing comes tumbling down. But God bless the artists in camp who set up a demonstration, keeping things in balance against all odds; God bless them for setting rock on rock even after…

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Lost family member

Homeless people are attached to their pets, just like the rest of us. When a dog dies, the whole camp suffers. But what happens next is tragic. How can you properly dispose of the much-loved remains? Last night someone in a homeless camp asked me if I could help in any way with the cremation. “Let me find out. Call me in the morning.” I had to think about it. I got no idea what a cremation for a pet…

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