FROM OUR PROGRAM COORDINATOR
The seasons have definitely changed since the last newsletter, and we are feeling it at Nightwatch. Requests for blankets and coats have turned into pleas, and as night creeps up earlier on our watch it makes sense to dread winter and the burdens it brings to our guests. Yet even when the cold damp hangs heaviest over the crowded downtown center, there are moments of joy that are surprising, sometimes strange, and always powerful. I would like to share a few of them:
- While I stood outside to greet guests on a chilly evening, J--- paused on his way in, patted me on the head, and told me I need to get a hat so I can stay warm.
- When our weekly Creative Writing Group used imagery in describing their mornings, they could have focused on the bitter wind, but instead they each expressed gratitude for the sun and for the coming day.
- Thanks to outstanding volunteer emcee Ciara and a variety of talented performances, Open Mic night was a hit. The songs and dancing were a lot of fun, but the whole room hushed when one guest read aloud a poem she had written and memorized by the sea many years before.
- Superstar veteran volunteer Sonnie brought me a surprise Peppermint Mocha on a night I needed the extra fuel.
- Many of our guests were (understandably) more irritable after the recent cold snap left them shivering outside. But the winter weather caused a different reaction in one jolly older man, who spoke the whole night of snow angels, sledding, and singing by the fire.
These moments and many more have brightened my first season at Nightwatch, and for that I give thanks for you, the volunteers and supporters who make it all possible.
NIGHTWATCH’S NEW OUTPOST: WOODBURN?
While we may be well aware of the inadequacy of the services in a city like Portland to meet all the needs of the homeless, have you ever thought of what the availability of such services might be in a small community such as Woodburn?
A shocking fact: Woodburn has NO services for the homeless. The closest shelter is in Mt. Angel, 8 miles away.
One of our former volunteers, currently a Woodburn resident, has seen the homeless in her community and has asked if we could help establish a Nightwatch-like outreach in her town. We’ve begun conversations to get something going, and have received a grant from the Anne & Eli Shapira Charitable Foundation to help with that exploration.
Already our exposure to the Woodburn experience has opened our eyes to the need for services in similarly-sized communities. Therefore, we’ve adopted a broader goal in our work with those in Woodburn. We hope to develop from a it a model that can be packaged for other communities with like-needs so they may be able to create their own outreach programs. In theory, through our production of manuals and training videos, we would have something communities around the country could use.
We’ll keep you posted on how things develop.
CONTRIBUTIONS SOUGHT FOR NIGHTWATCH CHRISTMAS PARTY
It’s really too early for any of us to be thinking about Christmas, but it will be December by the time you receive the next newsletter and we need to think ahead.
Particularly, we need to think ahead when it comes to gathering items for the Christmas stockings we give out to all guests who attend. The Christmas stockings typically contain helpful items such as these:
- knit caps
- Kleenex (pocket pack)
- sewing kits
We would welcome contributions of any such items if you have them. We would also happily receive any monetary contributions towards purchasing such items.
CHAPLAIN’S NOTES: “What Are People For?”
Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people;
Once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
--1 Peter 2:10
I am a minority in America today. I grew up on a farm, as most Americans once did. Today, fewer and fewer Americans know what that means. For me, it meant having a family and a community, meaningful work I could do that needed doing. Without ever asking the question, I knew what I was for.
Years ago, Wendell Berry became a favorite thinker and man of faith in my life. Early in his career as a college professor, Berry realized that he did not fit. A learned and well-read man and gifted writer, Berry returned to the land and community of his Kentucky roots. There as a small farmer himself, he observed and wrote about social trends destructive to families, communities and the land itself. In a pointed essay that became a book in 1990, Berry asked a startling question we might all ponder, “What are people for?”
Whether we seek answers to the causes of homelessness and mental illness, the massive number of refugees from Syria or Iraq, or how to be a gracious presence to a tired guest, Berry’s question is a timeless one. How we spend our time and how we respond to other human beings is our answer to that question. May we always be people who live mercifully because we have received mercy. May we always be people who find God’s people wherever we go. It’s the best way I know to be one of God’s own people ourselves. And that’s what we are for.
FROM OUR (NEW) PROGRAM COORDINATOR
Hi, I’m Katherine! It’s nice to meet you!
I’ve repeated these words many times since arriving in Portland two weeks ago, but I am especially excited to write them to you, the friends of Operation Nightwatch. As you may know, I will be serving as Nightwatch’s Program Coordinator for the next year as a member of Jesuit Volunteer Corps Northwest/Americorps. This role grants me the opportunity to supervise the Downtown Hospitality Center on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings, as well as program various events for our guests.
I am coming to the Northwest after spending the first 22 years of my life in Indiana, and in many ways I was attracted to this region because of the ways in which it is different than my (beloved) home state: proximity to mountains and beaches, a more active lifestyle, and fewer mosquitoes!
My desire to serve with JVC Northwest and specifically Operation Nightwatch was shaped in part by my time at the University of Notre Dame. As a student of Political Science and Catholic Social Tradition, I was introduced to structural injustices and our obligation to our fellow humans in need. More importantly, though, I have started to realize how positive changes can come about by respecting and truly listening to the individuals in one’s community—especially those whose voices so often go unheard. I have only been at Operation Nightwatch for a week now, but I can already see that they do an extraordinary job of this—listening to their guests and providing them a space to speak.
Though I know it will be a challenging year, I look forward to meeting Nightwatch’s wonderful community of supporters and volunteers, witnessing the talents of our guests at Open Mic nights to come, and contributing what I can to this important work.