Under the leadership of its first director, Gary Vaughan, ONW began as a street ministry, its volunteers approaching the homeless in the doorways, loading docks, and campsites where they were bedded down for the evening. In time, a Hospitality Center was established, to which the homeless and other low-income people could gather with others for the evening, socializing, sharing stories, and playing games over coffee and sandiwches. The downtown Hospitality Center has since become the hub of Nightwatch's activities, from its foot care clinics to its monthly Birthday Nights and Comedy Movie Nights. It also is a place where people can be supplied with blankets, clothing, and personal hygiene items at a time of day when no other helping agency is open.
Operation Nightwatch is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation, governed by a Board of Directors. The work of its second Executive Director, Debbie Coppenger, did much to set Nightwatch on a stable institutional and fiscal footing. Operation Nightwatch continues to be funded primarily by individual donations, along with some small foundation grants. ONW also receives critical volunteer and monetary support from a roster of churches ranging across the theological spectrum. ONW is a member of Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon.
Our current Executive Director, Gary Davis, has expanded the vision of Nightwatch. He has revived the street ministry in a renewed form--Street Hospitality Teams well-trained crews who connect positively with people who cannot or will not access the Hospitality Center itself. He inaugurated the Mobile Hospitality Center, enabling Nightwatch to extend the work of hospitality to homeless clusters located outside the downtown core. He has also overseen expansion of Nightwatch's outreach to the city's East Side. A second Hospitality Center opened in SE Portland in December, 2011.