Chippewa Valley Street Ministry Journal - April 26, 2020

"I'm tired of this." That was the response we received when we asked a man how he was.  He and his companion were near a local park when Pastor Mike and I stopped the van to check on them and provide a bag containing food, water, and a sports drink. The man shared that he had heard that the policy for re-entry at the homeless shelter had changed and that he thought he'd go back.  The companion stated that he had been told that he's moving up on the housing list and is hopeful for a permanent home in the next few months. A third man arrived and accepted a bag, we attempted to talk with him but there was a language barrier that limited our conversation.  Pastor Mike has talked with them on a regular basis and they expressed gratitude for the ministry.

 

Late night in the city of Eau Claire, two men searching for a place to sleep for the night.

(Picture taken with permission)

 

We drove to the eastern side of Eau Claire and spotted a man walking with a couple of backpacks and a bag.  There was something about him that was concerning, he looked stressed and worn out.  We pulled over and shouted a greeting to him.  He came over to the van and visited with us, he was looking for a ride to the north side saying a friend would let him stay with if he'd met some requirements.  Due to Covid-19, we were unable to provide transportation.  While we were sitting there, a couple of people that we've known for several months appeared. We again provided the bag of food and visited for awhile.  

 

We returned downtown and spoke with two more men.  They, like each other person we visited with, had an appearance that was concerning to us.  They appeared haggard and unsure of their next move. With so many services closed or limited, they were struggling to not only make plans to move their lives forward and off the street but also to simply plan for that single day: they couldn't tell us with any certainty where they'd be at 9pm that night which was only a few hours away. They face many unknowns and have few options for manage their concerns. The men shared that they're finding it difficult to get their needs met with most agencies and businesses operating by phone only. One of them had a phone, the other has to borrow a phone which concerns him when he knows he is supposed to be keeping a safe distance from others.  

Later in the evening, Pastor Mike encountered a man who had a makeshift shelter and all of his worldly belongings with him.  He wasn’t sure where he was headed but would have to carry his things with him.  Prior to Covid-19, we would have transported him somewhere. As for most of us, everything is different for the street ministry and the people we serve.

 

 

Man taking a break as he searched for a location to settle for the night.

(Picture taken with permission)

 

We’ve gone out to check on our friends in both daytime and nighttime. We’ve noticed the eerie feeling of the empty streets due to the pandemic.  It’s somewhat unnerving to experience the stillness in what was a busy, energetic city. We have homes to return to, phones to call friends and family and food to eat.  Our friends are facing this isolation often alone and doing the best they can.  Along with the emotional support and basic needs that the street ministry provides, we have been purchasing food to ensure that the homeless we serve are getting enough to eat.  We’re seeing more people wandering the street now than before the pandemic started, some nights we’ve counted almost two dozen.

 

We served eight people in less than an hour. They weren’t hidden in less traveled areas.  They are in this community and they’re unsure of what to do. Please keep them and others in need in your thoughts and prayers We’ll be posting a needs list, please help us care for those in need by donating. Thank you!

 

Karen - Social Worker / Nurse                                                                                                                        

 

 

 Chippewa Valley Street Ministry Journal, April 21, 2020

 

Not that long ago the homeless shelter in

Eau Claire moved approximately two miles out of the downtown area to a much larger facility, the Hobbs Ice Arena, to form a 24/7 shelter to allow for more social distancing for their guests. The street ministry calculated it would probably be only a short period of time before we would see a larger number of our homeless friends find their way back on to the streets again.

Friday through Sunday of this past week, we served over two dozen individuals that we recognized from past encounters.  We also served a few new people that were either from out of town or had been recently released from jail or prison. One man told me to remember what I was seeing was only the tip of the iceberg, he said that the homeless were staying or camping out all over the city and neighboring communities.  He gave me locations where I could find others, but some of these locations shouldn't be accessed at night he said, because of safety concerns.  The ministry was been handing out sleeping bags and blankets to those who are sleeping outside if they wanted them and bags of food provided by Feed My People Food Bank which would sustain them for at least a 24 hour period along with face masks and wet wipes to keep their hands and face clean (currently we have no sleeping bags, blankets and wet wipes left to give out).

 We have concern for several young women that are sleeping out in the open by themselves. We do a safety check on everyone several times a day and into the evening to see if they are OK.  I have heard more then a few stories of our homeless guests having their food and/or personal items either been stolen or thrown away.  I was helping  3 men on Sunday night with sleeping bags and blankets, they were staying down by the river. I had to return to our storerooms to look for extra clothing for them and when I returned, they told me that teenagers on bikes had ridden by and threw rocks at them and called them names.  Insults from the public are not all that rare, but physically assaulting our friends is an isolated incident and I would hope not become a new trend.  As much as social distancing is important for everyone, on the street banding together helps to keep our friends safe when there is no shelter for them obtain. 

Please remember our homeless neighbors in your thoughts and prayers. Poverty, race or religion should never be an issue that separates us from one another.  We are all part of God's creation and serving our neighbor should be our top priority.

 

Mike - Street Pastor for CVSM

 

       

 

We often write about the weather but for the people who live on the street, the weather can dictate where they stay safe, warm and dry.  In summer months, they need to find safety from scorching, dry heat.  With the current Covid-19 restrictions, the options for shelter are greatly decreased and the people we serve are exposed to the elements. 

This picture was taken looking down Barstow Street on the day after Easter 2020, just days after the area had enjoyed much

warmer, dryer weather. For someone living on the streets, staying warm and

dry can be a daunting task.

This picture, also taken looking down Barstow Street, is dry but the options for

staying warm and dry are limited if they are unable to stay at the shelter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We believe there is hope for change and more justice for the people we serve,

just like there is hope after a storm.  CVSM will continue to be a support to those

in need during and after the current health crisis. Please help us support those struggling to

secure permanent shelter and basic needs.

 

 

Chippewa Valley Street Ministry Journal - April 11, 2020

 

The street ministry continues to canvas the city doing safety checks each night -- respecting social distancing -- and providing necessary items such as sleeping bags, blankets and food for people who have nowhere to go. Photos speak of the drastic change that has encompassed our area due to the Stay at Home order from our governor.  Typically on a Saturday night at 10pm in Eau Claire, WI, the street would be bustling with pedestrians and vehicles coming and going to restaurants, music venues or theaters. Tonight there was little traffic except for a few pizza delivery vehicles and police patrolling the area.  While taking one picture, I did note that there were a couple of people seemingly looking for a place to settle for the night next to the river.  One woman was hunkered down in a doorway of a local business, I opted to not disturb her.  

 

Those of us with homes and resources may be struggling with the isolation this stay home order brings. For those who live out in the open with already reduced availability of food, water or other resources, this order brings additional challenges.  The ministry is attempting to provide care when possible while keeping ourselves safe.

 

Financial donations are needed and greatly appreciated as we are purchasing items that are not donated.  Checks can be mailed to:

 

CVSM

PO Box 51

Eau Claire, WI 54702

 

Online donations can be made via Paypal by clicking links on our webpage or Facebook page:

 

www.chippewavalleystreetministry.org 

 

or our Facebook page:

 

https://www.facebook.com/chippewavalleystreetministry

 

 

Thank you for your support and prayers for the people we serve.  Please stay safe!

 

Karen - Social Worker/Nurse

Sojourner House shelter -- Guests have been temporarily relocated to Hobbs Arena to 

allow for social / spatial distancing between guests.

Water Street/student town is usually overflowing

with students and friends, on a Saturday night.

4-11-2020

             Foot bridge from Phoenix Park, 4-11-2020

                                                                                                             Barstow Street, a main street in downtown 4-11-2020

        Mayo Hospital coronavirus testing site, 4-11-2020, 10:30pm

Chippewa Valley Street Ministry Journal April 5, 2020 - Thoughts, Reflections and Concerns

 

Several weeks ago I had a call from an old friend that I attended seminary with.  He is currently a hospital chaplain and he volunteers at a large homeless shelter in Eastern Wisconsin.  We hadn't talked for quite some time; it was good to catch up and we agreed to make time to get together in the near future.  However, earlier this afternoon I was notified that my friend was in the hospital; he has tested positive for the Coronavirus and is currently in an ICU unit struggling to survive. Life can be so stark!  His wife and children have not been allowed into the hospital to be with him.  Please keep him, his family and friends and all other victims of this pandemic in your thoughts and prayers.

 

Saturday I was just starting our nightly safety check when I was flagged down by a young high school student.  I had seem him before at night when he had missed his bus to go home to his grandmothers house.  He usually takes a bus downtown to visit his girlfriend and will occasionally lose track of time and then gets stuck downtown.  I have given him a ride in the past to his grandmother's home, she lives approximately 5 miles from the downtown area.   I told him I couldn't give him a ride this time because I carry a lot of food in the van and the fact of social distancing.  I called him a cab and talked to him  about social distancing, I told him that he had to be aware of the current dilemma our country is facing.  I also told him to be safe, be conscious of the time and that I didn't want to see him downtown again at this time of night.

 

Driving through the downtown at night is like driving through a ghost town: no cars, no people except for some of our homeless friends that are sleeping in doorways. Usually if I come across someone sleeping I don't try to wake them. I may put another blanket on them and leave food but finding them asleep maybe the only peace they have in life.  Our homeless friends are living under a double threat: struggling to survive homelessness and having to be concerned about the coronavirus.

 

Earlier in the evening I spotted a young college student sitting on the ground next to a homeless women resting in a doorway.  I asked her to come over to the van to talk.  I mentioned to her that I really appreciated the compassion that she has shown this woman, she was a rare person to extend herself in this way.  And as hard as it was for me to say, I told her that she had to move away because she was sitting too close to the woman and she needed to be conscious of social distancing.  I said that I was sure she wouldn't want the possibility of either one them infecting the other. 

 

This is the new reality we live under.  Like it or not he have to comply, our lives and the lives of others depend on it.  Please be safe!

 

Please keep our homeless sisters and brothers in your thoughts and prayers.

 

Mike - street pastor - CVSM

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