Do you have any cleans?

I went on outreach with a registered nurse and a group that does Hepatitis education. I had water, handwarmers, and Bibles. We visited five camps that the city has received complaints about. Most of the camps are under freeways, and the people living in these camps are extremely isolated. The lack of support these people have is evidenced by the piles of garbage and feces that surround their tents. We walk in through an opening in a fence and start talking to folks. I am never in a big hurry and love to chat. I talk with campers about Pink Floyd and the Wizard of Oz. My new outreach partners offer flu shots, clean hypodermic needles and Narcan. Helping people stay alive is the main concern. There have already been over one hundred overdose deaths in King County this year. Clean needles reduce the risk of disease and death. Narcan brings people back to life who are overdosing. People are always asking me if I have any clean needles. I have water, handwarmers, and Bibles.

 We visit a large camp with lots of drug use. I have been here before with limited success. No one is ever interested in talking with me. Walking around with people that have safe injection kits and Narcan seems to change everything. I pass out my water and talk with a woman who is fresh out of jail. The public health nurse has a folding stool and an ice chest filled with medical supplies. A young woman named Harriet has a seat and gets a Hepatitis A vaccination. I am standing off to the side and pray silently for her. She is talking a mile a minute and has two black eyes. Another female camper punched her in the face yesterday. The care provided by the nurse is incredible. Harriet thanks us and asks me for my name. She then turns to the rest of the outreach team and begins to declare the Gospel of Jesus. “The Holy Spirit is real. Heaven isn’t some kind of bullshit. God loves us and the Bible is the real deal word of God.” I listen and understand God is going to have me pray for her. I wonder what the nurse and clean needle outreach team will think. I ask Harriet if she wants a Bible and prayer. She closes her eyes and bows her head. “Pray for my family and for protection.” We pray and she tells me Psalm 30 is her favorite. “The chaplain at the mental hospital prayed that one for me!” We hug and she thanks me for the prayer. The other outreach worker sarcastically says, “I hope that prayer works for you.” I know it already has! “O Lord my God, I cried to you for help, and you restored my health. You brought me up from the grave, O Lord. You kept me from falling into the pit of death.” (Psalms 30:2-3 NLT).

Michael Cox

One thought on “Do you have any cleans?

  1. I didn’t realize you were in King County. Is that Washington?

    (I have to ask… we have a King County here too, but it is extremely rural.)

    Anyway, I have visited the streets in King County in my past, both as a street minister AND as an investigator for the Public Defender office. It’s been a while. As I hear it, the homelessness has exploded there since I last visited. But even 20 years ago, there was a LOT of homeless there. And the original skid row! A beautiful place to live, homeless or not.

    I reckon you have your hands full! You are up against world-class numbers of homeless there. Boggles the mind.

    God bless you.



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