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Chippewa Valley Street Ministry Journal June-26-2024

As summer settles upon us as we serve our brothers and sisters, the need to help people stay hydrated becomes one of our primary concerns. Our water supply is running low, and we could use some help stocking up. Free drinking water is not an abundant resource in our community. If you can help, let us know.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We bring an umbrella to provide some shade for the people we serve. 

We've had contact with people who have turned to non-alcohol substances to supplement their habits.  One substance that is easily accessible and often free is hand sanitizer. The effects of the hand sanitizer have brought on negative and peculiar behaviors. We're concerned about the safety of those who have told us what they've ingested as there are proven facts that it is a dangerous practice. We asked where they've gotten the substance, and we were told "it's everywhere." It's in offices, clinics, agencies, etc. where needed services are provided. It can be found in public places that, when used properly, would reduce the spread of disease. 

The number of people we're serving remains in the 65-70 range but it's not because homelessness is waning but rather because more people are camping out and we're not seeing them on a regular basis. We're giving out a significant number of t-shirts, shorts, socks and underwear. Still, 65-70 people is too many for so many reasons, not least being that, as a community, we're unable to provide a basic need to a very vulnerable population. 


A man resting. It was hot this day and we checked on him to ensure he was okay.

A few journals ago we talked about the excessive number of people getting camping tickets. This has not changed as we continue to hear that someone or another has gotten another citation. Our argument remains: without a viable option of where to stay, if someone cannot get into the shelter, where should they go? 

Did you attend the Peach Fest put on by La Peche Community Foundation? We were blessed with some peaches and a financial gift from their hard work earlier this week. We were able to share the peaches with our guests and just maybe snuck a few for ourselves. All who took peaches enjoyed them. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you have the opportunity to participate in Peach Fest next year, please do so!

 

Please keep our brothers and sisters in your prayers. Thank you for your continued support.

CVSM staff

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On June 12th, 2012, three people headed to downtown Eau Claire, WI, to evaluate the needs of people living without permanent shelter.  They brought a cooler of water and a few boxes of granola bars and did not know who they would find or what conditions they would find themselves in.  Originally known as Plymouth Street Ministry, we've grown and are now a staple for the homeless community to receive not only clothing, food, water and other items, but also unconditional support.  This is an excerpt from one of the Street Ministry's earliest journals, it describes what we do perfectly:

      "From its earliest days Plymouth Street Ministry has had a philosophy of being with the people we serve as equals.  We met them, and still meet them, in their territory.  They don't need to go to an intimidating office and talk to someone across a desk--we are there among them, evening if it means standing for over an hour in below zero temperatures.  We have never proselytized, although we will pray with people if they ask for it and initiate it.  The people we serve have often been lectured to, preached at, and judged by religious institutions and we don't want to do that.  Instead, we share God's love by simply loving them.  We try to love all, to help all, and to judge no one, and we know that those we serve are every bit as important as we are in God's eyes, perhaps even more important because of their need."

Now, in 2024, we're serving 60+ people each evening when we're out and taking calls on "off days."  The needs have changed drastically from twelve years ago: mental health concerns have skyrocketed, hopes for housing have plummeted. There seems little way of moving past this situation for the majority of the people we serve.  There are more people living on the street with chronic health conditions who try to manage their needs in a difficult environment.  People are more stressed and tense as they survive day to day, from one season to another and from one year to another.  We've streamlined our services to consistently and reliably provide for the needs of our brothers and sisters as they are on their journey.

From the start of the street ministry, we have been funded solely through the generosity of churches, individuals, businesses, etc. Without you, we could not meet people where they're at and support their needs.  Whether the contributions are in monetary form or material donations, we have always been blessed with your generosity. From all of the volunteers, THANK YOU!  

As we continue forward with the street ministry, please keep the people we serve in your thoughts and prayers and if able, please continue to support the street ministry by donating.  Your donations truly do make a difference to this community.  It is heartwarming to see the relief, almost disbelief, on a person's face when they ask for something and we provide it without condition.  Again, thank you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blessings always,
Chippewa Valley Street Ministry - Staff

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Chippewa Valley Street Ministry Journal - May 2, 2024

 

We continue to be busy each night we're in service. Sometimes we're busy with the number of people we serve; other times we're busy with providing for the needs of the people that come to our table.  We now plan for 75 visitors each time we're out, an increase from even six months ago.

We had some visitors at our van one morning.

 

We spoke with a man tonight that caused us concern.  Initially, we noted that he had a yellow tinge to his skin, especially his face. When we asked how he was, he answered, "Not good" and proceeded to tell us that he had had Barrett's esophagus for several years and it has now developed into esophageal cancer. He showed us a ring that had snapped and come off due to increased swelling in his fingers.  He reports that his kidneys are not working properly, and he has fluid collecting in his hands and feet. The man does have a doctor that he has gone to but admits that he doesn't know if there is treatment or if he'll participate in treatment. He has a strong faith and believes that God will call him when it's time. Because of the increased population, he doesn't always get into the shelter.   We asked if he gets enough to eat and he said that he often feels too weak to get to a bus stop to catch a bus to the Community Table. He eats at the shelter when he can and uses the bags of food we provide to tide him over to his next meal. As we talked, I thought that this man is literally dying in front of me and there's nothing we can do to provide comfort other than listen to him and provide the much-needed food. It was a helpless feeling!  We asked that he keep us posted. 

 

Another person stopped by to ask what she should do with a wound on her finger that had been caused by a bite from another person. There were two open areas and she said she'd been trying to keep them clean. There was no sign of infection; she's been doing a good job managing them. She knows what to look for in case she needs additional care.

 

As we noted in our previous journal, several of the people we work with are being given citations for camping in city limits and we'd like to revisit this topic.  While it is important to enforce ordinances, the people we work with often have no alternative to stay elsewhere.  One man has 11 citations from 12-04-2023 until 3-22-2024.  Each citation is $213.10 so he now owes $2,344.10 for trying to find someplace to rest.  He doesn't have an ID or money to get into a motel and has no housed friends that would let him sleep on a couch or on a floor.  To avoid getting a ticket he tries to stay on the move all night with brief rests where he thinks he's out of sight.  Being sleep-deprived is dangerous and unhealthy.  Again, we understand that law enforcement has a job to do but is there an option of providing an alternative place for someone to be able to rest rather than piling on charges and debt that they'll likely never be able to pay?  

 

This little guy was fortunate to have received a stroller from one of our followers 

to replace the borrowed stroller seen here. 

Our volunteers enjoyed his visit. 

 

We have been working with family from the family shelter, it has been a long time since we've had the opportunity to work with kids. After posting a request for a stroller on our Facebook page, we were able to provide a stroller to them.  The offers that came in to help this family reminded me how amazing our support network is, and I want to thank you for that. When I first started volunteering with the street ministry and requesting help, I initially didn't believe that there were as many generous people in the community that I've now found there to be.  When we are in need of help, whether it be material-type donations or funding, you've always come through.  While we are on the street working directly with our community's vulnerable unhoused population, we're only there because of your support. We are currently in need of funding to cover the cost of bus tickets and to help purchase items that are not donated, specifically backpacks and shoes. In order to provide these items, we have been purchasing them. Even at thrift stores, the cost adds up quickly.  We appreciate your consideration. 

 

Noted this flag and rainbow after some rain. 

Blessings to all of you. Please keep our brothers and sisters in need in your prayers and help us support them, if you are able. 

 

Thank you

CVSM Staff.

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Chippewa Valley Street Ministry Journal - April 3, 2024


Since the beginning of the Street Ministry, we've tried to be the voice of the people we serve by writing these journals. We share what we see and what we hear from our visitors and hope to give you, our support system, a glimpse of what life is like on the street. As the days and years go by, we find that the needs are becoming greater and that the needed resources are not easily accessible. There is less hope than in previous years – the hope for housing is minimal at best as is access to mental health care.  There is no guarantee of a bed at the shelter because of the increase in the population. We try to find a bright note to comment on in each journal but this time, we are unable to do that. As you read and review our journal, please keep the people we serve in your hearts.  

 

Volunteers Cora, Tess, Ella, Karen

The population we're serving continues to grow as evidenced by the number of ready-to-eat bags of food we provide. We again ran out of supplies one evening and we'd brought 70 bags with us. We ensure that each person only gets one unit and still, we departed without being able to provide food to everyone. We're hearing people say that they are uncertain about getting into the shelter simply because of the number of people in need of a bed. It appears that the number of women on the street is increasing, as well. During one of our last outings, we met a young woman who reported being nineteen years old.  She said that she had come with someone she was in a relationship with but was not with him at the current moment. She said that she was scared and hoped that she would be safer than when she had been in a shelter in another state. When asked what had happened there, she states she was raped. We provided suggestions for her safety and encouraged her to come back and keep us informed of any problems she'd had. She was unaware of local resources such as Community Table or the Haven House, we gave her directions to both and will check in with her at our next time out.

A man waiting to get into the shelter.

 

Many of our visitors that do not stay at the shelter are reporting that they have been getting cited by law enforcement for camping and now have fees to pay. We do understand that the city has ordinances that must be enforced but we have questions about this practice: where can someone who cannot stay at the shelter for one reason or another stay without violating a law? Some people have absolutely no income and are unable to pay the fines. What happens when they accumulate several tickets – does it stay on their record and negatively impact any chance at housing or employment? Do they ultimately end up in jail if they miss court appearances?  One man has at least four open cases for camping, and each has a separate court date. He has no phone or watch and has to somehow keep track of dates and times as well as keep on the move or hide out to avoid future citations.  There are a number of people unable to stay at the shelter who are trying to keep out of the sight of law enforcement and trying to catch some sleep.  The fatigue is wearing them down physically and mentally. Fatigue in anyone, homeless or not, increases the likelihood of poor choices and behavior changes.    

From the National Library of Medicine, a study's "results show that the effects of prolonged sleep restriction are more detrimental than those of one night of total sleep deprivation...Under the effects of sleep loss, people habitually more reflective and cautious become more impulsive and prone to risk-taking during decision-making based on deliberative reasoning. Effects of Total and Partial Sleep       Deprivation on Reflection Impulsivity and Risk-Taking in Deliberative Decision-Making - PMC (nih.gov)

Please refer back to our most recent journal in which we asked you to imagine what it's like to be homeless. Imagine what it is like to have no good options for a place to sleep, to not be welcomed to rest. What would you do? Again, we acknowledge that there must be law and there must be order in any community but who, exactly, is benefiting from this policy when there are no known alternatives?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

This stroller is used to carry all the personal belongings one of our visitors has. 

 

Thank you for your continued interest and support of the people we serve and of the Street Ministry. We will continue to share what we experience, both the positive and what causes us concerns. Please keep our brothers and sisters in your thoughts and prayers. Any support you can provide is appreciated.

Blessings to all,
CVSM Staff

 

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Chippewa Valley Street Ministry Journal Notes -March 27, 2024

 

Greetings to all!  As I write this, I realize that since our last journal we have had nearly every kind of weather known to this area: warm weather that turned to snowy, dangerous conditions. The snow turned to rain which then froze and resulted in slippery sidewalks and sloppy roads. The weather has calmed and in a few days, we'll be back to seasonal temperatures. We did our best to provide necessary items to the people we serve.  For those who were out of the shelter, we were definitely concerned for their safety and freely gave out blankets and sleeping bags. Requests for coats, gloves, boots, and other gear were common and for the most part, we were able to fill the requests.


The following writing is a section out of a sermon that Pastor Mike delivered to 

St. James/Trinity Lutheran Church in Fall Creek, WI, in 2013. Consider the people 

we serve here in Eau Claire as you read this and try to imagine the stressors that are 

faced every day.  For many people, it is a daily effort to survive. 

 

 

What does it mean to be homeless? Well, let me ask for some volunteers: who would like to spend 7 days on the street on your own? Now remember, this is not like camping out. We’ll start by taking away any form of ID that you might have and no cell phone. We'll give you two dollars in cash for spending money and you will have only the clothes on your back and nothing more. We have stripped you of your identity. You basically have to function on the street by yourself. You are not allowed to reach out to family or friends during this time unless you decide to quit the project. We will take you to Milwaukee or Minneapolis, or Lacrosse, or maybe Chicago so you won’t run into anyone you know. What is the first issue that you have facing you? Well, if you’re smart, it will be about safety: How do I navigate the streets without being violated, and how do I find food? Where can I go to the bathroom? Where am I going to sleep safely tonight? The shelters in Chicago are closed for the spring and summer months and some don’t open until November so you will be competing with 20,000 + other homeless that will be looking for a place to lay their head on any given night. What happens if the shelters are full? How do I protect myself in the shelter? If I’m lucky enough to get a bed, shelters in big cities can be very dangerous. Who can I trust? On the street, what if the police stop me and I have no ID or money? Will I get arrested for vagrancy? Should I stay awake at night and try to find a place to sleep during the day for my safety? What if I get sick, then what do I do? I’m thirsty, where do I find water? Now if I’m a woman, how do I protect myself? What happens if someone tries to pick me up? If I am seen walking around at night, what if I am mistaken for a prostitute? What if I wander into a neighborhood that is not friendly to me? It may be a rich or poor neighborhood. What if it starts to rain or what if it snows? How do I dry my clothes, how do I keep warm? What if the temperature drops below zero? What if the temperature is 90+? How do I protect myself from the elements? I’m lonely, I’m scared, I’m bored, I’m tired, my body hurts. Where do I find toilet paper? I’m stressed about where I can sit down or lie down to take a nap. What if I’m an elderly person, or a young teen? What if I’m an L.G.B.T. teen? Queer teens have the same problems, but they may be more at risk for violence!

 

Now we come to day number two. I am really tired and I’m hungry, I’m thirsty and scared and really starting to stress. I need to find a bathroom to clean up in. I need an aspirin for my headache; I need an aspirin for my menstrual cramps. Where can I find some tampons? Maybe I can just use a rag. While I am in the bathroom of this gas station, maybe I should borrow some toilet paper and put it in my pocket for later in the day. I could wash out this Pepsi bottle that I found in the garbage and fill it with water, and maybe I should take this half- eaten hamburger with me. I wonder if Starbucks has anything for two dollars? Ah, I guess I know better than that. Should I dare to go by the local Church and will they allow me to come into their service on Sunday looking and smelling like I do? I am so embarrassed and I feel so ashamed. God, I miss my family!

 

In Chicago, I knew of a minister who was a very dynamic preacher and when he was invited to give a sermon at any particular church, he would ask the pastor of this church to give him several weeks to prepare. During that time, he would allow his facial hair to grow out and he would not get a haircut. He kept a set of clothes in his basement that he never washed and when it came to the day that he would present his sermon, he would put on this set of nasty clothes and head off to the church. Now he would arrive 30 minutes early and then proceed to position himself on the ground just in front of the main entrance of the church. As the good people of this church arrived, they found this man lying at the entrance. Well, this was not pleasing for many of the church-goers that encountered this supposed homeless drunk and they would proceed to get angry. Over the years the pastor would receive the wrath of many in the congregation. They would yell at him, try to drag him away, and oftentimes abuse him and threaten to call the police if he didn’t get in his way. They were incensed that this derelict of a man was blocking their way and keeping them from going in and worshiping God. As the service began, he would get up and go around to the back door that was left open for him and he would stand just outside the sanctuary waiting to be introduced. When his time came, he would take his place at the pulpit in the same clothes that he came to this church with and proceed to give his sermon after thanking the congregation for having invited him to speak that morning. His sermon topics would usually be about offering hospitality to the stranger or the Good Samaritan or loving your neighbor as you would yourself. As we sit back and reflect on this story from a distance we probably would say, how could these people act this way toward any human being? What if the tables were turned and you found a homeless person lying at the entrance of this church, how would we react? Would you offer this person the opportunity to come inside and have some coffee and food, and then invite that person to church or would you just hurry that person down the street? Just food for thought.

 

Blessings,

CVSM Staff


We've updated our needs list. Please donate if you are able.

We accept new and gently used items that are clean and in good condition. 

Contact us if you have any questions.

Financial donations - we purchase city bus passes on a regular basis to provide to the people we serve for transportation to work, appointments, and general use. These are costly to purchase in the quantity that we need.

Men's underwear - New is preferred, boxers and/or boxer briefs. All sizes.

Sleeping bags - if donating a used sleeping bag, please have functional zippers

Hoodies - these are in need year-round. We are in need of hoodies in sizes L, XL, XXL, and larger

Tennis Shoes - men's sizes 8 - 13, women's sizes 7-11

 

Happy Easter to All!

Please remember our brothers and sisters on the street and share your hope, love, and joy.

 

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Chippewa Valley Street Ministry Journal - February 26th & March 4th,  2024

It seems that each time we write, we make note that the number of people we serve is growing. This journal entry is no different: the population continues to increase. One night we served 59 guests and the next night we served 63.  We're preparing for 70 guests per night, a significant increase from a year ago.  What is even more troubling is that many of the people we see each night are new to the street and unsure how to navigate their situation. At some point, will there be enough services to provide to the people in need? 

Pictured L to R: 

Julian Emerson, Andrew Werthmann, Mike Basford 

were chatting prior to CVSM activities.

 

We had some visitors one evening last week: Mike Basford, Director of Interagency Council on Homelessness from the State Department of Administration; Andrew Werthmann, Eau Claire City Council member; Julian Emerson, long-time journalist and homeless advocate.  The men, all who have shown support of the street ministry for several years, were with us to not only observe the Street Ministry in action but also to engage in conversation with the people we serve in order to better understand their challenges in our city. The night of their visit was particularly busy: we served around 70 guests.  When we arrived, there were people laying by nearby buildings; many people were waiting in line for food or other items; we listened to people expressing frustration over their day's events. Among the subjects that we discussed with our guests was our local hospital closures and the fallout we expect we'll see as a result of the ending of services: primarily mental health care but medical treatments, as well. We also talked to them about the shelter's capacity and what happens to our visitors when they can't stay due to the shelter being at their limit of guests. We appreciate the time our visitors spent with us and hope they gained knowledge and understanding from the experience. Interesting fact: because of Mike Basford and his interest in our organization, our journal was once shared with Governor Evers!  We were honored for the opportunity to share the stories and facts of our city's streets with our State's leader.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cora - providing food and beverage to a visitor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When we arrived this day, there were people 

finding shelter near this building.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brent - talking with a visitor that is accepting some snacks.

Occasionally, we'll have extra treats/snacks to distribute. They are

always appreciated by our guests. 

 

We spoke with a woman who has been using crutches for several weeks following a surgical repair of some ligaments. She is tired but opted for crutches rather than a wheelchair or knee walker in order to not have to transport more equipment while she attends classes at the technical college. She is more than half-way through her first semester and determined to complete the program.

 

We also had a visit from Chelsea from the Eau Claire Tenant Landlord Resource Center. We've connected to share resources for people in need and support one another's missions. Thanks, Chelsea!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chelsea - Eau Claire Tenant Landlord Resource Center

Speaking to visitors about their day and any needs they have. 

 

There's a man that we've spoken with several times who is trying to manage several chronic conditions while living on the street, he concerns us. He has both heart and lung disease as well as deficits of other systems. He appears to be an older adult and quite vulnerable. He asked for boots and a blanket, both of which were available. Both chronic and acute medical and mental health conditions are difficult to manage without permanent housing. 

 

Please continue to keep our homeless friends in your thoughts and prayers.  While our needs list will be sent out soon, please be aware that we are in need of blankets and sleeping bags.  If you have any of these items that are in good repair and you are willing to donate them, please let us know.  Again, our needs list will be available soon with these and other needs.

 

Blessings,

CVSM 

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Chippewa Valley Street Ministry Journal February 21, 2024

 

We wouldn't be the first in the area to call this one of the most unusual winters in memory. The people we serve are grateful to not have to face bitterly cold, snowy weather.  The night's do still get cold and can be dangerous; we're handing out hoodies, blankets and sleeping bags regularly. Warm socks and gloves or mittens are also often requested. We adjust to the weather and when or if it turns colder, we'll be ready to support our friends with their needs.

 

The street ministry has added two positions for Chaplains.  Two local pastors, a male and female, will be available to assist in this effort, The Street Chaplaincy primary mission is to bring compassionate spiritual care to unsheltered and temporarily sheltered people. The street chaplain visits homeless people where they are most often found: on the streets. We do not go out to proselytize but rather to build relationships through friendly, relaxed, and non-judgmental concern. We simply ask, “How are you doing? What do you need?”, just as Jesus did.  People on the streets experience various types of traumas and they need to know they aren't alone, both tangiblyand spiritually. We learn a lot about the complexities of needing and receiving services. We can help to connect the unhoused with spiritual resources if a desire for them is expressed. On the streets, we discover our common humanity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Waiting for the shelter to open

 

 

We occasionally encounter a man who is deaf when we're out. One of our student volunteers, Ella, is able to use sign language to communicate with him. The look of relief on his face knowing that someone can talk with him is heart-warming.  The man looks for her first at each visit and if she's not available, he's disappointed. It is comforting to find people that can communicate with him. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This man was in disbelief when we provided a warm coat for him. 

He expressed gratitude several times before departing. 

 

We still have families living in their vehicles. We ensure that they have blankets and food before they leave the table and question whether they've contacted the local family shelter.  We don't often see them each time we're out, we hope that they've found some stability and are safe.

 

One of our longtime friends has been in the hospital with chronic respiratory issues.  He is a big part of our ministry and helps to prepare the vans and serves with us before going to the shelter. We are glad he's out of the hospital and feeling better. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our "beacon" for guests to find us. 

 

We served 59 people this past Monday.  Typically, we plan for 60 visitors and we did have enough food but we'll bring more out next visit.  While it has happened only one or two times, it's a terrible feeling for those we serve and ourselves when we run out of food. Many of our brothers and sisters depend on the food that we distribute. 

 

Thank you for your continued interest and support. We definitely could not continue on without you! Please keep our homeless friends in your thoughts as they continue on their journey. 

 

CVSM - Staff

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