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A Night Walk With Tim Durkan: Sound Effect, Episode 151.5

Tim Durkan
Jesse and his dog Dexter, camped out in a bus shelter on Broadway in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood.

This story originally aired on Jan. 14, 2017

“The streets start really showing their personality after dark,” said Seattle photographer Tim Durkan, on one of the coldest nights of 2016.

He’s talking about the neighborhood where he lives, and where he grew up: Capitol Hill.

“The commuters have gone home; all the yoga stores have closed; you know, the PCC and the Whole Foods — everybody's got their freaking quinoa. Everybody's home behind their little closed doors. But not Rick, not Jessie, not Daniel. Their day is just beginning; they’ve got to survive.”

Rick, Jesse and Daniel are just a few of the people who also come out there at night -- people with addictions, without homes, who have run away from something.

They’re the people that many workaday types go out of their way to avoid. But not Tim Durkan.

Durkan has been walking the streets of Capitol Hill at night for more than 20 years, camera in hand, chronicling the lives of the homeless, capturing what it’s like to live on the margins.

Durkan knows these men, women and kids by name. He knows the circumstances that led to them living on the streets. He knows when they die and how it happened. Sometimes, he’s had the pleasure of seeing his unhoused friends overcome enormous obstacles to go on and lead productive lives. Other times, it’s been his grim lot to find them when they’ve overdosed, or succumbed to cold.

Sound Effect’s Jennifer Wing took a walk with Durkan one winter night. In our new mid-week podcast installment, we talk with Jennifer about how this story came to be, and we give it a fresh listen.

Note: This is part of an experiment with Sound Effect’s podcast: We will feed a condensed version of the full show on Saturdays, withholding an especially memorable story. Then we’ll hear that segment, and some of the story behind the story, in a new weekly podcast installment that will be in your feed on Wednesdays. You can still always catch the full, broadcast-style version of the show on the web site (at the bottom of the page).

We’d love to hear what you think of the new podcast format -- give your feedback in the comments below, or email

Jennifer Wing is a former KNKX reporter and producer who worked on the show Sound Effect and Transmission podcast.
Gabriel Spitzer is a former KNKX reporter, producer and host who covered science and health and worked on the show Sound Effect.

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