Plymouth Street Ministry journal- August 30, 2016
Wow, what a busy night! We brought 60 food bags with us since we've been seeing more people, but we still ran out! People were saying that the shelter has been really crowded lately, which of course makes for more tensions and stress for everyone, and many were happy and grateful for the little support that we can give them. We saw a long time friend of ours who has struggled with alcoholism for a long time, but he seems to be doing fairly well and is keeping busy with work. Hopefully he can keep up the good work. Last week another man was asking if we could locate a bike for him to make it easier to get around. We found a bike and brought it down to him, he's never been one to talk much or show much emotion, but he was very happy to get the bike! It's so nice to be able to bring a little happiness to the people on the street.
Another man stopped by to see if we had any black pants, he had just got a job and needed the pants but had no way to get some. We didn't have any with us or in our store room, so I stopped by one of the local thrift stores and got a pair for him, and made plans to drop them off for him in the morning. Please keep an eye on our "Needs List" that is usually included with the journal updates and also on our website - we have been going through a lot of items with the increase in people that we've seen the last couple weeks, and with winter not far off we will need many more supplies in the near future. And as always, please keep these people in your prayers.
Journal / Tuesday August 30 - part #2
It was a busy night on the street tonight coupled with relief from the high humidity of the previous day.
We exhausted all the food bags, all the juice supply, and much of the water. In addition to clothing items, back packs and more.
I spoke with, and listened to, several people which I had met before, as well as, a couple new folks. Jeff, Mike, Dan, Randy...all the names escape me. Each has a story. Some are hopeful; others not so much. I'm always intrigued at the eclectic demography that presents itself throughout the evening. Young & old, male & female, different races, all with an endless variety of backgrounds / history. As I interact with His Kids it is abundantly clear that poverty has no boundries!
Probably, the most stirring action I witnessed was watching the Ministry members comfort those in need. "What you do onto the least of these ......", came to mind, as I looked on to what was goin' down on the street last night.
Street Journal - August 30, 2016 - part 3
It was a very busy evening, possibly the busiest I've seen. We served about 67 people and there were others that didn't stop by but walked directly to the shelter. We ran out of food bags but still handed out water and juice. Two or three people asked for T-shirts or backpacks which we had with us, others requested certain pants for employment or shoes that we will provide at our next visit. One woman was using yarn for shoelaces in shoes that were uncomfortable, we made a note of her shoe size and will replace them for her.
This evening was different than others, not just because we were so busy but because the people we served seemed to be more stressed or tense than we usually see. One older man with a walker alerted us to some changes that they -- as a group -- are experiencing. If you have been reading our last few journals, you may have noted that the numbers of people we're serving are rising. The increase has caused a shortage of beds in the community and not everyone has a place to lay their head. During this time of year most people will be fine but the cooler nights are coming and that concerns me. Also of concern are those with mental illnesses and the elderly. We have often seen people with known mental health problems as well as the elderly walking the streets at night. One person, a veteran, requested a sleeping bag and food to get by. This person is very nervous about the community and prefers to isolate himself from others. In situations like this we take the items to the people and will continue doing so until we are no longer needed. This man is staying along the riverside.
I wonder why we are seeing such large numbers? If we were a small business that thrived on increased numbers this would be great but that isn't the case. What is happening in our community that leaves so many people without places to stay? I wonder what I can do as an individual or what the street ministry can do to with this unfortunate growth but there are so many unknowns that right now, we cannot do anything beyond our current ministry.
As I write this I realize how tired I am and how I am looking forward to peaceful sleep this evening. Some of the people I've grown to care about may not have a mattress or pillow as an option. I am very disturbed by the recent growth we've seen and pray for answers or solutions for the people we serve.
On a brighter note, one of the young women we've been working with stopped by with her daughter. Her history includes being trafficked and abused throughout her life. The ministry has worked hard with her to keep her on task and moving forward. She is now in college and will soon be working in a field related to her major. We are very proud that she's overcoming so many of the hurdles life has thrown at her, she is a survivor.
Please prayer for our brothers and sisters in need.
-Karen -- street nurse
Plymouth Street Notes - Saturday, August 27th 2016
The Street Ministry serves a diverse population and occasionally we are called to visit in new locations to meet the needs of those we care for. Today Pastor Mike and I traveled to see a woman who is from Eau Claire that is in a secure treatment facility in Milwaukee, WI. We have known this woman for over a year and have been a source of support for her while she has been in custody.
Fortunately, our travels were uneventful. We arrived in Milwaukee unsure of where the facility was but through a little trial and error, we did locate it. We found ourselves in a poverty-stricken neighborhood that does not appear to get a great deal of attention from the city in terms of upkeep or renovation. We asked the woman during our visit what she knew about the neighborhood and she explained that the demonstrations that we'd heard about in the news a few weeks back had been just a few blocks from where she is staying. In fact, a gas station that had been burned down during that time was "just" down the street. She reported hearing gunfire nightly during the unrest. Although the facility is secure, I would imagine that hearing those sounds would still cause one to feel anxious and alone.
The facility was not anything like Pastor Mike and I expected. As noted, it is a secure building but once we were in it felt comfortable and inviting. We saw other families and friends visiting, especially noticeable were the young children visiting their mothers. It was enjoyable to hear the laughter and watch the families playing board games, trying to make an abnormal situation as normal and routine as possible.
The woman we visited was very happy to see us. Because her family is from Eau Claire, she seldom has visitors who can make the distance. We spent a little over two hours with her and listening to her share her accomplishments, hopes and dreams. I was impressed with her goals, they are realistic and positive. With her determination I believe she will succeed. She stated a couple of times that she is grateful for the opportunity to be where she is at in order to live and get out of the situation that she'd grown into. I thought that was very insightful and a positive way to view her status.
The young woman shared her story and how she is managing. She is bright and has positive and reachable goals. Her day is filled with support groups and education. She is learning about herself and her strengths, her fears and her weaknesses. Her self inventory will bode well for her upon her discharge as she has learned a great deal about what "makes her tick" and how to manage behaviors and emotions.
Our visit concluded with hugs and well-wishes. I look forward to her discharge and the opportunity to watch her grow and blossom into her new life.
Karen -- street nurse
Plymouth Street Ministry Journal--Friday, August 26, 2016
Overcast, 72 degrees at 5:30pm
Volunteers: Barb, Brent, George, Jake, John, Kayla, Larry, Mike
On Tuesday we gave out 55 bags--all we had--so tonight we were prepared with over 60 bags of food. To each bag we added cold water and juice, and we also set up a table full of pastries for people to take.
Early in the evening one of our regulars stopped by. He has been working at a fast food restaurant for three months now and was pleased to have an income.
We had a pair of pants for another man who had left his size with us on a previous day. We gave another man, who was carrying his possessions in a grocery bag, a backpack. Two others asked for pants. We didn't have their sizes with us but took down their names and sizes.
We had a pair of shoes for another man who had requested them on an earlier visit. The man was wearing a very ill-fitting pair and was extremely grateful to received shoes that fit. He also had recently acquired a bicycle for transportation and said he hadn't biked for twenty years. He was rather sore--he had sore feet from his old shoes and sore legs from using muscles he wasn't used to using. He told us he had served 16 years in the navy. Mike informed him of veteran's benefits he may be entitled to.
TM stopped by. I hadn't seen him for quite a while. He had been working hard and looked pretty good. TM is great guy, and brightens everyone's day. I pray he can stay sober and make it out of homelessness this time.
Tonight we gave out 46 bags, and also handed out water to a couple of others who didn't want the bags, so we served a total of 48. Although that's not as many as on Tuesday, it is still more than we are accustomed to.
Please pray for, and care for, the poor.
Plymouth Street Ministry Journal-- Tuesday, August 23, 2016
Part 1 of 3
Overcast, 79 degrees at 6pm
Volunteers: Barb, Brent, Chuck, Jake, Karen, Kayla, Mariah, Mike, and I
We had many volunteers this evening, which was good, since we had many visitors. I spent most of my time adding cold water bottles and cold juice bottles to the bags of food and handing the bags out. We handed out all 55 bags we had--fortunately, the last one went out right at 7pm.
Fifty-five is the largest number we've served in one evening in a very long time, maybe ever. The number of visitors to our vans usually increases toward the end of the month--at the beginning of the month many homeless folks have some money--but I don't think any of us expected this many. We heard reports of the shelter being very crowded, and with the crowding comes tension. We witnessed an altercation between a woman and others waiting for the shelter to open, across Barstow Street from us. I don't know how it started, but it ended with the woman leaving the shelter waiting area in her wheelchair shouting and making a rude gesture toward those she was quarreling with. Despite this most of the homeless get along quite well with each other, and, were I in their shoes, I'd be much more irritable than they are.
Eau Claire's homeless population has not gone away but has grown, and the need for shelters, food aid, and other services is greater than ever.
Please pray for, and care for, the poor.
Tuesday evening, August 23, (part 2),
was muggy w / rain probable later in the evening.
I spoke with a man from the Chetek area for 15 to 20 minutes. (His name escapes me.) He currently resides at Sojourner house. He was staying in the Chetek area, for the summer, and has returned to the Eau Claire area to attend CVTC again this fall. As we spoke both of us suddenly realized that we had met about a year ago. On a few occasions, I had given him a ride to the Mount Washington facility, where he was then residing. I was glad to see him again and to realize the savvy and determination he was exhibiting in trying to turn his life around. He's been struggling for years with chronic Alcoholism but seems to be making substantial gains in his recovery efforts.
Another fella, that I met a couple weeks ago, continues to stay clean & sober and pursuing efforts / community opportunities, to forward his efforts to get back on his feet again.
I met a third individual, who has secured part time work and is also participating in some self employment doing various small painting projects. I was concerned that he repeatedly stated that he wasn't like "them" as he pointed to the people gathered outside Sojourner House. He also refused a bag of goods, that we give out, stating "I'm good". I didn't say it to him but, I felt his attitude of indifference may be part of his ongoing struggle.
A fourth, middle aged man, who has detoxed a couple times in Eau Claire, was pleasant to talk with and seemed both hopeful and open minded about a better future. He has sought some direction in dealing with his obsession with "drink" and was open to getting together, at a later time, to discuss that area more.
It seemed to me that the Street was busy last night. I had enjoyed breakfast and played golf Tuesday morning and later had coffee with one who lives with great financial comfort. That experience, coupled with last nights observations, caused the human disparity and indifference to be unusually glaring as I made my way back home last night.
August 23, 2016 - Part 3
The cloud cover was welcome when we arrived at the parking lot. The air had felt sticky earlier in the day but it improved while we were out in our service.
We visited with a woman that has a place to live but she is struggling to get by. She has a developmentally disabled adult son in her care and has at least one other adult living with her. She's become a regular to us and I truly think she comes to talk and share her story, to connect with people who won't judge her but listen, hug and pray with her. She shared that her brother had recently been released from an area jail and was staying with their mother. This woman is very concerned for her mother's safety because of her brother's history of volatile behavior. Many tears were shed, Kayla offered to pray with the woman and the woman was appreciative.
The young mother of three children that we've written about numerous times stopped by for a visit. I personally hadn't seen her in a couple of months. I'd tried to connect with her through a text message but did not get a reply, my concern had grown so I was glad to see her today. She shared her updates with us, shared updates of her children's growth (they were not with her) and how she's been sober for seven months. She seems focused and is in a positive living arrangement, I hope life will continue to treat her well. I enjoy watching her interact with the volunteers, she definitely feels comfort with us as she goes from one person to another, laughing and teasing. It hasn't always been that way, we've stood by her when she reported a rape, when she was desperately trying to learn how to be a mother to three very young children and other events. She has learned that we are safe and reliable resource for her.
The last person I want to mention is the grandmother that I first wrote about a couple of weeks ago. She continues to feel stress and states she thinks she may be near her breaking point. Her daughter is rarely present and she is left to rear three young, busy children. I do not know her age, I'm guessing she is in her later 60's. One can tell simply by her appearance and stature that she has health problems. I think and pray for this woman often, her existence is to care for her grandchildren and she's tired. The radio we had initially given her had broken, a generous donor dropped off another just this evening so Kayla and I gave her the new one, along with a package of diapers. She was teary with her gratitude and gave us hugs. She again asked to be remembered in prayers, her faith is a source of support that she is leaning on.
Thank you, as always, for your commitment of support and interest to the street ministry. Please feel free to contact us with comments or questions.
Pray for those we serve,
Karen -- street nurse
Plymouth Street Ministry Journal for August 16th, 2016
It was a quiet evening on the street tonight, we had around 34 visitors. We were able to provide necessary items to those who requested them. One person had needed steel-toed boots for his job and through our amazing support system, a pair had been donated. The clouds threatened rain but it held off until we unloaded the vans at the end of the evening. The cool breeze that developed was welcomed by all. Serving our friends were Pastor Mike, Brent, Becky, Jake, Barb, Ruth, Sam and myself.
Several weeks ago, a family from out of state contacted us about their family member who lived in Eau Claire. They knew that she had stayed at the shelter for awhile but they had lost contact with her and they were concerned for her safety. We've been keeping our eyes open and asking people that are regular visitors to us if they'd seen her. Some people said that they had seen her but didn't have much more to tell us. She appeared this evening and we'll share the information we have with her family. Typically the woman doesn't accept anything or engage in conversation but when Becky and Sam spoke with her this evening, she requested a few hygiene items and was willing to talk with them. She would not disclose where she's been staying but said she was safe. She looked better than we'd seen in the past, I'm sure her family will be relieved.
We visited with the grandmother that I'd written about last week. She had asked for a rosary among a couple of other items, the rosary was the only item we didn't get to her last week. She graciously accepted it today and said that prayer was the only consistent thing in her life right now. She denied needing anything for herself (other than prayers) and for her grandchildren, she said that size 6 diapers were a constant need. Her eyes are very expressive and while she smiled and was pleasant, my perception of her is that there is a a lot of hurt and concern in her life. We encouraged her to contact us or simply come and visit us whether she has any needs or not.
After leaving the parking lot, Pastor Mike talked to a couple of young women who are sex workers. With the rain pouring down, he gave them some ponchos that were in his vehicle. While I wasn't with to visit with them, I'm sure they were very thankful for the gesture and the concern shown for them.
Thank you for your interest and support of the street ministry. Please pray for those we serve and especially for the grandmother who is giving herself to her grandchildren and who finds such great solace in her faith.
Until next week,
Karen -- street nurse
Plymouth Street Ministry Journal -- August 9, 2016
The heat continues! Sam, Barb, Becky, Kayla, Jake, Chuck, Pastor Mike and I spent a humid and sticky evening on the street serving our friends in need. We met with and provided bags containing food and water to 41 people this evening. We gladly handed out extra water to aid in keeping our friends hydrated.
We met a woman tonight that requested prayers of support. I don't know her age, I suspect she's in her 60's. I do know that she is living in the Beacon House shelter with her daughter and grandchildren. Her story includes living independently in a northern Wisconsin community, her daughter was a single mom in Eau Claire and struggling. The older woman agreed to travel to Eau Claire to help care for her daughter and her grandchildren. She states she was not comfortable leaving her daughter and young family to return to her own home and eventually moved permanently into their home. Through a series of unfortunate events, they are now without a permanent home. The older woman stays in the shelter to care for the children, her daughter is working nights but needs to sleep during the day so the older woman is left to the childcare nearly 24 hours a day. She shared that she wanted to be the grandma that baked cookies and took the kids to fun activities, not be the disciplinarian that the kids didn't like.
The woman seemed to enjoy the time visiting and seemed hesitant to share any needs. She asked only if we could get diapers, size 6, for the youngest of the three children. I noted her sandals being in disrepair, the straps coming away from the sole and the heel part of the footbed coming away from the rubber sole. When I asked about her shoes, she hesitantly admitted that they needed to be replaced. We asked if there was anything we could get for her that would make her situation a little bit easier. Her response was that a she would very much appreciate a small radio to keep somewhat in touch with what's happening in the world. I'm sure we can make that happen before our next time out. Our new volunteer Kayla offered to pray with her, this extra bit of compassion and attention was very meaningful to the woman.
I observed our other female volunteers spending time with other women that regularly visit. One is a younger woman who is doing her best to remain sober and comply with requirements to reunite with her child. She has struggled at times and admits that being sober is hard work, much harder than she expected. Another woman who we have not seen in a couple of weeks arrived and shared her story of having her phone cards and bus tokens stolen.
One man I spoke with is struggling with some medical issues, he reports needing knee surgery but the provider will not schedule it until she knows that he has a place to recuperate following the procedure. We do not have a location to provide for that need and suggested some options that he will think about. Medical needs and homelessness are not a good mix.
We have been contacted by family members of an individual who has been staying at the shelter. They live out of state and have asked us to keep an eye out for her and alert them to safety issues. We've been on the look-out for her but have not seen her lately. A regular visitor to us reported seeing the woman within the last few days. We would like to see her with our own eyes but this information leads us to believe that she is safe.
We enjoyed the visit of a few Beacon House kids who I think were hoping that we would have watermelon as we did at their previous visit (provided by Lake Street UMC) Having children visit and seeing the delight in their eyes when we dote on them is a gift. I hope they get into housing and have some stability soon.
Please pray for our friends in need. Thank you so very much for your interest and your support!
Karen -- Street Nurse
Plymouth Street Ministry Journal -- August 5, 2016
What a relief for those on the street to have cooler temperatures, lower humidity and a slight breeze tonight. Pastor Mike, Brian, Brent, Larry, Becky and myself were out along with two ladies from Lake Street
Methodist who had brought watermelon for those who stopped to talk with us. Two women with children and one grandmother with her grandchildren who were staying at Beacon House came by. I wondered about the grandmother who was bent over and looking tired if she was the primary caregiver or if she was helping out the parents of the children with her. She was taking the kids out for a walk. Two of the other children were proudly wearing the new shoes that we had previously given them. They loved the watermelon and asked for more. It is difficult enough for adults to be on the street, but to see children without homes is heartbreaking.
-- Children's needs