Brief update - August 13
While we typically write journals of all volunteer activities, I am compelled to write about a phone call I had tonight with someone we care for who has been on the street for too long. She called and said that a woman and her daughter were trying to get into the shelter but because the daughter was under the allowed age, they were unable to stay and the other shelters were not able to take them. Our friend was concerned about their safety and asked that if she saw them again, could she share my number? She felt that the street ministry would find some sort of help for them tonight. I'm assuming that since I haven't gotten a call, the mom and daughter left and no one has seen them.
I'm left wondering what became of the woman and her daughter, are they walking the streets tonight? Are they huddled in the dark and scared? Have they eaten? Do they have or need a sleeping bag? Are they safe? I feel helpless, a feeling that I always struggle with.
It always amazes me that people who are in great need themselves still have a place in their heart to help others. They often become a family of sorts that only those with their experiences can identify with.
The woman that called me shared that there were at least 5 new women at the shelter tonight. I'll be on the street tomorrow with the other volunteers, we'll be available with hugs, prayers and support for each and every one of them.
Chippewa Valley Street Ministry, 7-27-2018 to 9-7-2018
There are so many stories to tell, I hardly know where to begin or what to include to avoid making this too long. Its important to us that you know what is happening in our community not just to ensure the care of these individuals but also to promote change and betterment for the people who often are not heard or seen. We are their voice.
We have an amazing group of dedicated volunteers who routinely give their time: Brent, Sam, Barb, Michelle, Beth, Brian, Larry, Marge, Wendy, Pastor Mike, Chuck and Dean. All of these folks have regularly been on the street over the last couple of weeks, they do a great job and make a difference!
On 8/3, Barb and Michelle cared for two women who arrived separately but had similar concerns. Both women were vulnerable and terrified to be on the street. One woman had somehow gotten to Eau Claire from Minnesota after she and her mother had lost their housing. The mother had remained in Minnesota while the daughter, who we believe to have some cognitive deficit, had come to Wisconsin. Additionally, her speech is affected and she is difficult to understand. I met with the woman on 8/6 to continue our care and support for her basic needs. It broke my heart to have her cling to me in a hug and hear her cry; she sobbed that she wanted to go home. It was hard to remind her that she didn't have a home and even harder to tell her that she would have to stay in a shelter. She did not want to leave the location she was at for fear of getting lost. The woman shared that she worked with a local agency and gave them permission to talk with me. After a phone call with them, I learned their plan for her and ultimately, they found a safe house for her in another county and she was transferred.
On 8/7, Sam spent a good deal of time talking with a young woman we've known for several years. She is a constant concern for us but never ceases to surprise with her resiliency. This woman is incredibly resourceful and a survivor but can't seem to leave the surroundings and people that she's used to. She connects well with Mariah and Sam and pours her heart out to them.
Also on 8/7, Dean (pictured below) provided some bike repair to a woman that has recently obtained her own apartment but continues to visit us. She is unable to obtain a car but is able to ride a bicycle. Her bicycle had some flat tires and brake problems, Dean generously offered to repair it while we were out.
We met a sweet little girl (pictured below) who was happy to get a bag of goodies and treats. These little ones need permanent housing, we hope and pray that it happens soon for them. One mother who has a family staying at a local shelter shared that her toddler-aged son sees another boy who stays at the same shelter as his big brother. She added that for right now, the families have each other for support and she finds great comfort knowing they are not alone.
We hear from so many families and individuals who are looking for homes that they aren't accepted because of one reason or another. It would be refreshing and interesting, however, to see families get into homes and have continued support during their transition to promote success and avoid them returning to the street.
Thank you for your continued prayers and support for the people served as well as for the Street Ministry! We rely on you to help us provide the care that our brothers and sisters need.
- Karen - Social Worker, Street Nurse
Chippewa Valley Street Ministry Journal - August 17, 2018
It was a relatively quiet night downtown Friday night, I think we served around 30 people (it’s been averaging around 50 lately). We’re getting a lot of requests for backpacks, which we’re almost out of, so we would really appreciate it if anyone wanted to donate some good sturdy
backpacks, or we will gladly take monetary donations and purchase some.
I didn’t talk to too many people Friday but a couple things did stand out. One was a man that we have known for a while now, he came down to see us and share the good news that he has got a job at a local Manufacturing company! This is great to hear – we see so many people that are struggling and we don’t often hear the good stories. He was able to purchase a bike and is able to ride to work everyday. This man has some personal issues to overcome (as most people do) but he has a great attitude and is trying to look at the positive side of things everyday.
Another older man that has been homeless for almost as long as we’ve been going downtown stopped by. We don’t see him real often because he doesn’t like the crowds of people at the shelter so he tries to sleep outside by himself when possible. Pastor Mike talked to him for quite a while and was able to talk him into letting Mike take him to visit his doctor and then work with some other people or organizations to get him into housing, by winter if not sooner. We worry about this man a lot as he is getting older and a fall when he’s by himself in the woods or by the river could result in disaster for him.
Thank you to those who provide donations, and please continue to keep the homeless population in your prayers. The number of homeless in Eau Claire has definitely gone up in the 6 years we’ve been doing this – I would guess close to doubling. Please think of us if you have extra clothes, backpacks, socks & underwear, etc. As a reminder, 100% of the donations we receive are used to support the homeless in our area.
Journal from Barb
We see people of all ages on the street, but it is most interesting to me to see how those with physical disabilities are able to cope with homelessness. One woman I met a few weeks ago is in a motorized wheelchair. She relies totally on her chair and the help of others and yet for the most part has an upbeat attitude. She was scheduled to have surgery and was very positive to have it done. She would be placed in rehab and then was very confident about having a place to live afterwards. Unfortunately, the day of the surgery came and she was told that she would have to wait because for some reason, the aftercare had not been arranged. This woman is a fighter and I believe that eventually it will all come together for her.
It is difficult for me to understand why these things happen, especially to those with nothing. I realize the importance of being present for those on the street and to show that we do care and continue to pray for a better life for them.
Chippewa Valley Street Ministry Journal 8/14/2018
From Michelle ...
Last night may have been the most difficult night I’ve experienced while volunteering on the street. The weather was great, there were wonderful volunteers and we had good visits with both regulars and new friends. We heard about new jobs, and the possibilities of housing and reconnecting with family. We saw kids who were excited to see us and to have the few treats we have to offer.
But we also heard from friends being chased out of buildings without any personal belongings. We questioned whether any of our regulars were currently in jail. We observed a few individuals that we believe to be active addicts with rotten teeth and bumps on their heads and swollen, infected faces. We talked with some men with mental illness who can be unsettled and volatile but can also be docile and friendly. We saw a few people with dirty clothes and handed out many clean socks, shorts and T-shirts.
The trauma our street friends have suffered, both by their own hands and at the hands of others, was more than I could bear last night and weighs heavily on my heart today. I am grateful for my volunteer partners who can interject humor into their care for others. I am grateful for the local shelters, though often overflowing. I am grateful to other community partners who offer a safe place to spend the day, share a meal, a hug, and a smile.
And I am grateful for our community of supporters who help us do what we can to alleviate some of the need and discomfort of our friends on the street. Thank you for your donations and prayers.