Chippewa Valley Street Ministry Journal - August 31, 2021
With the beautiful weather we've had the last few days, it is hard to remember the downpours we experienced in our area a few times during the last week. During the rainy days, those without permanent shelter were left to find a dry place and wait out the showers. At times the wind was hard enough to topple branches and cause power outages. Imagine having nowhere to go when the weather is dangerous -- this is the reality of many of our community members.
We continue to hear people share their concerns and frustrations relating to the limited access to bathrooms and water supply. We provide water daily (and often multiple times daily) but it isn't always enough. We had a gentleman approach us one evening asking for water as he hadn't had any and felt somewhat ill. We provided him multiple bottles and informed him of when we would be back.
While we're on the street, we've started having people that we had typically served come and assist with distributing the food and water that we hand out. We've gotten to know them in a different manner and they feel good helping with the process. We have always been conscious about not creating a dependence with the people we serve and working with them in self-determining their own future. Generally, the people we serve tend to look out for each other and are aware of one another's needs and challenges; this helps us to provide better service. We've learned about the population as a whole and individuals as well as wants and needs that we had made assumptions about. A complaint that we've heard multiple times is that needed services such as mental health care or treatment for addictions are difficult to access and the processes take too long to obtain.
Our community lost a gentle and generous man approximately two weeks ago. Chuck Stokes volunteered with the street ministry for a number of years and touched countless lives. We remember Chuck's unconditional acceptance of our brothers and sisters on the street. Without hesitation, Chuck would shake a visitor's hand and start a conversation. Chuck volunteered elsewhere and would go to homes, treatment centers, jail, attend AA and NA meetings with anyone that found the need to participate or anywhere he was needed. At his memorial, Chuck's family generously invited the homeless community to partake in a meal in his honor as well as attend his remembrance service and we're certain Chuck would have enjoyed the community time. He will be missed!
Chuck engaging in a conversation with a visitor
Brent (L) and Chuck (R) assisting a visitor during a frigid night.
Chuck had a wonderful sense of humor.
Chuck always welcomed each person with unconditional care and respect.
Our needs list has been updated. With the cold season coming before too long, we'll be needing to purchase any items that are not donated. As a reminder, we operate only with donations, both physical items and monetary; please remember the Street Ministry for your donations. Thank you!
As the seasons begin to change, so will their needs -- colder weather brings challenges, school starting for children, fewer resources for spending the day outdoors, for example. Please keep our community's homeless individuals and families in your thoughts and prayers.
Chippewa Valley Street Ministry Journal, August 9, 2021
There is currently a great deal of discussion in the local news and in the community about the current shelter and the desire for expansion as well as discussion relating to a possible new shelter. Our primary focus is not either of those discussions but rather the people who will utilize either or both services. The situations we observe on the street are not improving and even with the eviction moratorium in place, we expect the homeless population to increase.
We've been working with a young family and trying to help them maintain safety while they are without permanent shelter. They report contacting agencies locally and in neighboring communities for shelter and thus far have not had any success in obtaining services. Comforting and serving anyone without housing is a challenge but it becomes more difficult when a child -- especially a child with special needs -- is involved. This child requires frequent treatments at medical providers for a chronic condition that is potentially life threatening. The parents are absolutely dedicated to his care and verbalize that he IS their priority. The father has applied for work in the area and is hopeful to earn wages that will assist him in finding housing, however if he needs to attend to his medically fragile child, he's not sure his employer would understand. He acknowledges that obtaining housing will not be a quick process but a necessity to work towards. Until housing is obtained or services are available through local agencies, the family has few options other than living in their car.
Child of the family needing support.
Picture taken and used with permission.
If you or someone you know was faced with an eviction, would you know what to do? Most of us wouldn't know who to contact or what steps to take. There is an abundance of information online and within local agencies but to access the information, technology must be used for internet access or phone calls. Please share the following information from Princeton University with anyone in need and/or see the following link for more information: Questions and answers about evictions as the CDC moratorium ends (evictionlab.org) The article answers many of the questions someone may have regarding eligibility for eviction protection such as eligibility, time frames, additional local/state assistance, and so on.
It has been raining much of this weekend and we can't help but wonder where our friends on the street went to avoid the heavy rainfall. Today and every day, there is no easily accessible area for the homeless to go to and get out of the elements, use a bathroom or find water. There are some businesses that have facilities available however many of the people we serve have mobility challenges and cannot get to there or cannot afford to be a paying customer to utilize a business' amenities.
We've frequently talked about the significant mental illness we see out there on a regular and consistent basis. This concern is not just with a few people we see often; the concern is widespread and notable in people new to us and those that we may not see again as well as the more well-known individuals. Their symptoms interfere with day-to-day activities and increases their vulnerability. There are not enough providers or services available to address this community wide concern.
In our last journal we had noted that we had not been aware of any Covid vaccination clinics that had focused specifically on the homeless population. We were notified that there had been a workshop in June at the shelter and that there is encouragement of vaccinations for this vulnerable population on a regular basis. We appreciate the efforts and we, too, encourage vaccinations when we're out.
Many individuals and families have made a local motel their home. Due to a possible sale of the motel, everyone will need to relocate and there are few options that are affordable or available for the long term. The shifting of living space may overwhelm the local shelters and/or leave more people out on the street. There is NOWHERE for them to go. There are no apartments available to them. Our housing shortage is at CRISIS level and it seems there is no solution. We're afraid for our homeless neighbors, no matter their circumstance, especially with fall and winter approaching. We cannot wait for snow to fall to have a community plan to ensure everyone is safe. Is this a community health issue? Emergency management? City? County? Who will step up now to prepare for what we know is coming? Soon it might be too late.
Thank you for your support and your interest. We appreciate your dedication to our most vulnerable community members. On their behalf, thank you and blessings to all!
- Chippewa Valley Street Ministry Staff
Dorothy Day (November 8, 1897 – November 29, 1980) was an American journalist turned social activist, who, along with Peter Maurin, founded the Catholic Worker Movement. She became known for her social justice campaigns in defense of the poor, forsaken, hungry and homeless.