Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 1453, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Nightwalk provides ministry of presence on the streets of downtown Spokane

Story and photo by Mike Mooney, for the Inland Register

(From the July 21, 2016 edition of the Inland Register)

Volunteers gather in the parking lot of the Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes prior to setting out on behalf of Nightwalk Ministry. (IR photo)

“Part of downtown Spokane doesn’t glitter after dark.”

This quote is from a 1984 article in the Spokane Chronicle about Nightwalk Ministries. The article describes how Rev. John Olson, the founding coordinator of Nightwalk, initiated a ministry to the homeless. Along with other ministers, he would walk the streets of downtown Spokane on a regular basis from 9 p.m. until after midnight. They visited with the homeless on the streets and in the taverns and restaurants, wherever they found them. Theirs was a ministry of presence, not trying to evangelize. The goal was to listen and provide help if requested and if possible.

This ministry continues today under the coordination of Deacons Chalo Martínez and Kelly Stewart as part of Catholic Charities of Spokane. The two deacons were part of the ministry with Rev. Olson.

While they no longer minister at the bars and taverns, the goals are still similar. The ministry and its 20-some volunteers, representing several parishes in the Spokane metropolitan area, travels downtown every second and fourth Monday evening, to the House of Charity for men and Hope House for women. Food is distributed to all, as well as clothing, blankets, and toiletries. In addition, this provides a good opportunity to visit with those on the street, listen to their stories, and let them know that someone cares. The goal is to help those in need find appropriate resources to meet their needs.

Although not all of the volunteers participate every time, 8-10 take part most evenings. The volunteers presently come from St. Rose of Lima, Cheney; St. Joseph, Otis Orchard; St. Paschal and St. John Vianney, Spokane Valley; and St. Thomas More, Assumption, and the Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes in Spokane.

Some of the stories heard in the past weeks include (names changed):

• James is 58 years old and is originally from Kellogg, Idaho. He has been on the streets for 20 years. Alcohol is his substance of choice and his main reason for being on the streets. He previously worked for Dave Smith Motors, detailing cars. He is not married and has no children. He subsists on $733 from Social Security Disability per month. In cold weather he gets a hotel room for $300 per week, which does not leave much money for food and other necessities. He said he has not talked to his father in 20 years.

• Gerald is from West Virginia. He attended university there and moved with his father to Moscow, Idaho 20 years ago. He is suffering from a bad back and other physical issues and is working to obtain disability status and payments. He said he has initiated a class action lawsuit against the city and state to obtain relief, since he cannot work.

• Margaret is a graduate of Whitworth and EWU, with a teaching certificate for grade school. She moved to New Mexico to be with family. However, she returned to Spokane to care for her elderly parents. They died recently and she is waiting on probate to settle the estate. She had her car stolen and she has a bad knee and cannot work anymore.

Nightwalk Ministry is still a ministry of presence. It is a blessing to those involved in the ministry because it brings home the fact that these are people, not statistics. The homeless all have a story and a problem that they are trying to overcome. It gives us perspective of our own smallness and the bigness of God. It illustrates the blessings that God has given us and how he wants us to pass on these blessings. It shows the personal component of substance abuse and mental illness and how we can help in a small way.

(For more information, email Donations in support of the ministry can be sent to Catholic Charities Spokane, with a notation for Nightwalk.)

(Mike Mooney is a volunteer with Nightwalk Ministry.)

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