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Summer 2009 | Volume 32, Number 2 | Features

Under the Overpass

“We’re all better off when we share what we have.”

Rick Reynolds
Rick Reynolds, a friend to people in search of shelter, also offers a warm smile, a firm hand, and a word from God. Every evening, his volunteer team, including students from SPU, dispenses food from the kitchen at Operation Nightwatch.

“If I make my bed under the freeway, God is there.”

Rick Reynolds’ paraphrase of Psalm 139:8 captures a reality that coats like soot the polished image of the “Emerald City.” The executive director of Operation Nightwatch in Seattle knows that on any given night there are more people sleeping under the Interstate downtown than in any city shelter.

“Caring for human beings, homeless or not, seems like the best use of my time,” says the Seattle Pacific University graduate of 1975. For Reynolds, that is a constant whether society is in economic plenty or financial want.

But economic troubles are taking their toll downtown. In 2008, he saw a 12 percent rise in the number of people seeking shelter through Nightwatch, an interdenominational Christian ministry serving the poor and homeless. Fewer jobs and higher prices fuel rising desperation. “There is heightened anxiety today, especially when people who have never been homeless start to run out of options.”

While mental illness and drug addiction still play a major role, he believes the number one reason people are homeless is now poverty. And what’s new is that middle class families are affected by poverty.

In tough times, Reynolds says people of faith don’t get caught up in the psychology of scarcity: “There’s enough for everyone. God has deep pockets still. Plus, we’re all better off when we share what we have.” Since 1977, he has shared his own home with people unrelated to him.

“The act of giving is an act of faith,” Reynolds emphasizes. “It’s saying to God and to that other person, ‘I know we’re going to get through this together.’ To give to help others, especially now, is an empowering act."

Exclusive: Related Response Video

Rick Reynolds remembers the Sunday school teacher who challenged him to put his faith into action.

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