Chippewa Valley Street Ministry Journal - August 30, 2020
Like all of us, the people we serve have had numerous challenges as we've trudged through the Covid-19 pandemic. There are new challenges at the shelter and drop-in center for our homeless friends due to relocating and changes in policies. The Community Table, where a person would be able to go in, have a meal, relax and talk with others has changed to a carton of food being handed out the front door of the center because of the pandemic. While these are necessary and understandable changes, they do require adaptation for people already struggling to survive day to day. Many water sources have been shut off, some of the few available bathrooms are locked by early evening and the social support that is needed has decreased due to social distancing. Mental health symptoms are on the rise as are stress and tempers.
We're seeing the numbers of people living on the street continue to rise and expect this to increase. We believe that there are now as many homeless friends out on the street as in the homeless shelter houses on a given night. Last week we fed 25, 24 and 21 people on consecutive days; we are averaging 18+homeless friends a day for meals. At the time of our meals, we also provide clothing, backpacks, blankets, sleeping bags, shoes or other essentials. We provide as much water as a person desires and send along 24 hour food bags provided by the "Feed My People Food Bank" to those in need.
We are currently having discussions with our street friends as to what they see their needs being. Very seldom do we, as a community, listen to the voices of the poor. Instead, we make decisions for them from our privileged positions in society. They know that they cannot count on local government to help them in these precarious times. The street ministry is working with many of our friends to assist them in organizing themselves to help each other. We are doing education work concerning the pandemic and how they can stay safe, working with our friends to register them to vote in the coming election, and to obtain flu shots sooner then later among other concerns that they are expressing.
We have a close relationship with the homeless shelter director who is known for treating the people she serves with dignity and respect. That is so important for the mental health and dignity of our friends who more often than not are ignored and shunned by society. The director and our ministry talk often in order to help each other provide the best care to those that we serve.
We require masks be worn during interactions for everyone's protection. While we are of course still able to have conversations, we rely on a person's eyes to help tell their story. We see fear, defeat, happiness, and measures of well-being as well as a multitude of other emotions in our friend' eyes. We no longer shake hands or give hugs, our eyes make the connection. For some people, direct eye contact is an intimidating practice and we are respectful of that.
We’d like to honor another of our departed friends who passed on from this life. Michael passed away approximately one month ago from presumably drowning. May he rest in peace.
Please continue to keep the people we serve in your thoughts and prayers. And on behalf of our friends that directly benefit from your donations, thank you.
Staff - Chippewa Valley Street Ministry