homeless

Photo of feet with socks with holes in them

Socks

One of my favorite things about being out on the street is when we hand someone a pair of socks, and they are so in need of a new pair, they immediately pull their shoes off and change them out, in between words of disbelief and gratitude. ‘55’ was no different. That was the name he gave us, not that one in particular, but a number. We continued chatting for a bit as he took his boot off. He pulled…

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Photo of homeless man in hat

Reconnecting

A breathless usher found me during the worship service yesterday. “There’s a guy here who needs to talk with you.” Meaning, ‘There’s a homeless guy and you’re the one who knows what to do about that.’ I found the guy in the lobby, and instantly recognized him – from one of the shelters I frequent. He left that spot to move in with his brother, or so he told folks. Now he’s in a tent community. He was surprised I…

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Photo of deodorant stick

Earthy smells

Last night was the final night of the Boat Street shelter, staffed by workers from Compass Housing. The building will be torn down this month to give way to a community park on the edge of Seattle’s ship canal, near the University of Washington. In fact, it was a perfect set-up for a shelter – nice bathrooms in abundance, two large rooms, with plenty of space to spread out. But people have to have their park, I guess. Promises have…

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Photo of dog on sidewalk

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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Photo of broken down van

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…

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The story of Pedro

Pastor Bob Bradbury was one of the earliest Nightwatch outreach ministers, starting in 1967. He was a classmate of Bud Palmberg, our founder. Pastor Bob passed away in December, 2016, and his widow Jane Ann sent me this amazing story. He told the story on Father’s Day last year – his final sermon. I’m guessing he has told this story many times: The Story of Pedro in 1967 While coming upon First and Pike after midnight, Pastor Bob heard this…

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Photo of homeless man with many bags

Roy the Bag-Bumper

Roy was a sweet guy – bright, articulate, with middle-class expectations and outlook. But he was homeless – and a hoarder. In the world of Nightwatch, you have to pack everything with you wherever you go. The shelters are just overnight flops. Our Dispatch Center, where people are fed and sent to shelters is way too full of people to take care of stuff. Roy had rigged up 3-4 bags which he slung across his shoulders. Duffle bags, various shapes…

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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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Elderly homeless man walking on sidewalk

gomer

Last night an ancient one, barely able to walk shuffled across the wet sidewalk to the front door of Nightwatch. His cab ride was paid for by an exasperated hospital social worker. The hospital didn’t want him. The shelters are all full. The boarding house with cheap rent is torn down. He has no friend to call. No loving wife or sister or daughter with a couch, for a night or two. He has only the gray-wool blanket given to…

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Psalm from the streets

Even when the knees hurt The hard drive crashes The shelter for 75 vulnerable men is cast into uncertainty; Even when the bank account is low and the car is no longer driveable, the rain is cold and the ice cream is forbidden; Even then, O Lord, will I praise you. Your works are marvelous, revealed in the smile of a stranger on the bus who jostled me here. My pen went awry on the page but the amends were…

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