Chippewa Valley Street Ministry Journal - August 25, 2017
I had the opportunity to volunteer both Tuesday and Friday this week. I use the word "opportunity" as I truly believe that being in the position to help our brothers and sisters as well as listen to their stories is a privilege. We visited with friends we have become accustomed to seeing as well as a few new people.
Pastor Mike and I met with a local Lutheran pastor this week and discussed the ministry. He used a term that we've used before but it struck me differently this time: the street ministry is a ministry of presence. I love that phrase: we don't proselytize, we don't have traditional congregational activities, our church has no walls. We don't just provide material items, we provide our brothers and sisters a moment of sanctuary where they are cared for with the love and respect they deserve in the manner we believe we are meant to do.
We met a young woman who is staying at a local shelter with her two young children. I took down notes about the sizes of clothing for her children and other needs they had. Several times we asked the woman about her own needs and she skirted answering by saying she just wanted her children's needs to be taken care of. Eventually the woman did respond with a few basic needs and then fell silent. I asked if she was alright and she seemed to avoid looking at me. All of a sudden tears fell down her cheeks as she said that no one just offers to help her as we did, help with no strings attached just for the sake of helping her. We assured her that this (helping) is what we do, there is nothing more to it -- no strings attached, as she'd put it. She began to tell us her story, or at least a part of it. Seeing her emotions and hearing her story, I was reminded of how important our presence can be for someone in need.
Pastor Mike has been working with another woman who is being trafficked. Like so many of the people and population we work with, there is often little we can do other than support this individual. We have provided her some necessary clothing and other items and have encouraged her to keep in touch with us, which she has.
We continue to be concerned about the folks we work with who are elderly and / or are mentally ill. There is absolutely a threat to their safety whether the risk is from other individuals, the weather, or even themselves. One older woman we've mentioned multiple times is sleeping outside in the open and has been doing so for over a month. We do not know her plans for the colder weather. Another woman was admitted to a local hospital for her mental health; we are thankful that she is safe, at least for the time being. There are, of course, many more individuals struggling that we'll never know of.
Thank you for all of your support. Please pray for the street ministry as well as our brothers and sisters in need.
-Karen - street nurse and social worker
Chippewa Valley Street Ministry Journal , 08-18-2017
As a volunteer of this ministry, I have learned the importance of spending time and listening to the people we meet on the street. Tonight, I had the opportunity to listen to four women, each very unique with varying degrees of feelings from hope to despair.
The first woman was excited to tell us of an upcoming job interview. She speaks often of her past work experience and takes special care of her appearance in spite of her current situation.
The next woman could not hold back her tears. She has had physical issues that limit her ability to work. She has no income and means of transportation. We have helped her in the past with a bus pass and tonight we were able to give her a few bus tokens.
Another woman talks of her mother and worries about the care she is receiving. She wants to try to get her mom a TV for her room. This woman will forgo things for herself to make life easier for her mother. She asked for a bike to get around town and her face lit up when we said we would try to find one for her.
The last woman I talked with tonight gives me the most concern. She lives in a world of her own making. I have tried to talk with her of her situation – her life at the shelter, her daily routine, her family, but she immediately goes off on another tangent. I fear for her safety and what will happen to her.
As we were getting ready to leave for the night, a couple came up to us and introduced themselves. They said they would be staying at the shelter tomorrow night. They were appreciative of the bags we gave to them and hopefully, we will be able to talk with them again and find out more of their story.
Every night is different on the street. We do the best that we can by listening to the stories of the homeless and showing that we do care about their lives.
Chippewa Valley Street Ministry Journal - Friday, August 18, 2017
The weather was very pleasant--around 70 degrees and cloudy with a slight breeze--when I arrived at 5:30pm. Angie, Barb, Brent, Brian, John, Larry, Pastor Mike, Rachel, Sharon, and I had a brief meeting in which Mike briefed us on who would likely need special care.
Many hands make light work. With ten volunteers we were able to serve the large number of visitors, thirty-nine, without many problems. It also meant that I talked to fewer people, however, and so have fewer stories to relate.
One of our first visitors was a young man who was very apologetic. He told us that despite what we thought of him, he was working hard to get his life together. He said he was struggling with an addiction but was making progress. We assured him that we did not think poorly of him, and only wanted to help him. We outfitted him with a needed pair of shoes and a pair of jeans--he only had shorts.
Another man was happy he had a good job lead. I asked him if he needed interviewing clothes but he said he had that covered. We wish him well.
A third man stopped and gratefully accepted a bottle of water, a bag of food, and a pastry. (We offer those things to all of our visitors.) He then asked who we were and what we wanted. I told him we were the Chippewa Valley Street Ministry, and we simply wanted to help people. He then asked what our political angle was, and I laughed a little and repeated that we just want to help people and that we were here on Tuesdays and Fridays if he needed help from us. He was surprised that there were no strings attached--he thought he would have to listen to a political speech or a religious sermon. He walked away looking slightly incredulous but also with a "well, I guess it's my lucky day" expression.
I talked with many others, but most just took a bag of food and water and stayed only for a short while.
We started packing up at seven, but opened up the van again to give bags to two more people who arrived a couple of minutes after.
Please pray for, and care for, the poor.
Chippewa Valley Street Ministry Journal Note 08-2017
We first met D the week before Easter this year. She had been on the street for 3 days, she had left her home in order to feel safe due to a conflict with another tenant. She had a black eye and small laceration with sutures above that same eye from a recent fall. With chronic respiratory problems and recent homeless, this middle aged woman was obviously distressed, overwhelmed and in need of immediate help. The Street Ministry provided a night's motel stay. The next day when she went to Urgent Care to have her sutures removed, she was hospitalized for her chronic respiratory problem due to a flare up of her symptoms.
After a week of hospitalization, she moved to a local rehab center where she lived until about a week ago, when she moved into her new apartment that she found through a local housing agency. As I helped her move in that day, seeing her confidence, ability to list off all the tasks she need to follow up on during this transition and the general "calm" she exhibited made my heart leap for joy. Her face beamed with the "pride" of a person who has overcome obstacles and arrived at a "better place".
Karen and I kept contact with D throughout her recuperation process. Karen went to several "care planning" meetings at the hospital and the rehab center. She walked D through some of the paperwork and other steps she needed to take to find housing. At these meetings, Karen advocated for D and pointed out of the challenges that our friend was facing (including the complexities of getting a portable oxygen system delivered to someone living on the street not to mention the ability to be able to use her nebulizer machine in a shelter).
My role was to find a few articles of clothing for her, but mostly to stop by to visit her. D liked to sit outside on nice days so whenever I would go by I'd look for her and if she was outside we'd chat for a while.
Thank you all for everything you do to help our neighbors that need our love and support.
Chippewa Valley Street Ministry, August 5, 2017
The rain showers were over by the time we were out on the street. Brian, Sharon, Barb, Wendy, Pastor Mike, Jake, Brent, Larry, Cindy and myself were serving our friends this evening. The evening was quiet compared to a few weeks ago but we know the flow of visitors is usually less at the beginning of each month and will increase over the next few weeks.
We spoke with a woman that we’ve known for a few months who is hopeful about employment, she had been contacted for a potential interview in a healthcare setting. Her face lit up while sharing her news, employment has been her goal since the first time I’d met her.
A man that George wrote about last week came to talk before going to the shelter. He is still searching and had had some disappointments after following some leads. He and I discussed his income and the challenges of having just a little more money than the cut-off for certain financial assistance allows but not enough to be fully independent. He is good natured and continues to have hope.
It seemed to me that many of our visitors were in a hurry to cross the street to get to the shelter tonight, I didn’t have many long conversations with anyone as is the norm. Perhaps there wasn’t any big news to share or our visitors simply wanted to go and rest.
Please take a peek at the needs list and our other news. We appreciate your interest, dedication and support of the Street Ministry!
Journal note, August 4, 2017
On my way home from work, around 8:45pm, it was dark, rainy and cool. While driving past the library, I noted an older man with white hair and a white beard that was either struggling to not fall or had fallen and was struggling to get up, his wheelchair was lying on its back with the four wheels up toward the street. I was not able to stop immediately as it’s a no parking area and I was fearful I’d be hit by other motorists. I went around the block and found a safe place to park, went to the man and asked him if he was okay. He had fallen and was struggling to get to his feet, the wheelchair was not a good object to try and get leverage to stand up with. I asked for his permission to help him and did a quick assessment for injuries. While we struggled a little with his size and lack of mobility, we managed to get him to standing position.
He had told me that he was 84 years old and was trying to get to the Sojourner House. I called Pastor Mike for some guidance and as the man and I slowly walked on the sidewalk, Pastor Mike arrived for assistance. I brought the man to the shelter and was pleased to have gotten him shelter for the night. I had some concerns about his mental health but, as I’ve learned over the last few years, there is not a lot we can do for that. If nothing else, I thought we could tackle that another day. At least he had a place to sleep.
On Friday, I spoke with a staff-person from the shelter and was informed that due to some frustrations on the man’s part, he had chosen to leave the shelter during the night. I had already heard that from another source as well as that he’d spent the night in a car somewhere, it was unclear if he knew the car's owner. I haven’t seen the man since then and I’m concerned for him.
I learned a long time ago that our role at the Street Ministry is not to “fix” every problem a person has but rather to walk with them on their journey. It is sometimes difficult to do that when we strongly believe that a person’s safety is at risk. While this man’s night at the shelter was cut short by his own choice, I am glad that I could stop and at the very least, provide a little bit of warmth, dryness and compassion for him.
Two of our young friends from a local shelter. (picture used with permission)