Plymouth Street Ministry Journal - Friday, Dec. 16, 2016
I wasn’t really sure what to expect on the street as far as activity level due to the snowstorm we were experiencing. When we arrived at the parking lot across form the shelter, Chuck was already there and was busy shoveling an area for the vans and for our visitors and volunteers to stand and visit. Our evening was quiet for about 30 minutes and then our friends started arriving.
We visited and served about 20 people, a few were visitors we’re familiar with but many of the people were new to us. One new woman is from Kentucky and was not prepared for the weather. We outfitted her with a coat, gloves, scarf, hygiene kit and a backpack. We didn’t get her story as to why she is in Eau Claire, it surprises me how often we have people who are from very Southern states. We’ve met people from Florida and Mississippi, as well. I wonder why they choose to come to Wisconsin in the winter?
The person of most concern to us was a new visitor, an older man who uses a cane. Even with the cane he struggles to walk, he and the men he was walking with said that they had left the Community Table at 6:15pm and it had taken over 45 minutes to get to the shelter. One of the men knew that we were available until 7:00pm and he had come ahead of the other two to alert us of someone needing a coat and a few other items. We watched the man struggle to walk through the accumulating snow and finally arrive at our vans. He was very distracted with his concern of not getting to the shelter in time for a bed so our visit was short. His friends helped carry the necessary items for him and they departed. I had many questions, perhaps he will return and we’ll have the opportunity to meet with the gentleman and see what other needs he may have.
One of our friends had surgery about a month ago and was fortunate enough to convalesce at a local rehabilitation facility. He will be discharged in the next day or two, we’re happy he’s doing well. Unfortunately, he is without permanent shelter so the rest of his healing will be done on the street. He is in his sixties, I believe. We’ve journaled before about the challenges of recuperating on the street. Lack of sleep, lack of nutritional diet and even decreased general hygiene increases the odds of slow healing or infection.
Some of you reading this are local, others are not. We want to make you all aware of the current weather that our friends on the street are dealing with: the temperature reached about 12° F today and the forecast is to get up to eleven inches of snow before the storm is over. The forecast for Sunday is a HIGH of -8 ° F with windchill factors of -25°F. We worry about what January and February will bring. Our friends face other challenges in the winter other than the cold. Their sources of easily accessible water and restrooms are decreased. Many businesses are closed on holidays so warm shelter is less available. The least that we can do is to provide warm clothing, gloves and boots, water and snacks.
Keep those we serve in your prayers and please, keep yourselves safe and warm!
'Til next time,
- street nurse
Chippewa Valley Street Ministry Journal--Friday, December 9, 2016
Barb, Brent, Brian, Larry, Mike and I were out at the municipal parking lot from 5:30pm to 7, distributing bags of food, water, juice, and hand warmers, plus a lot of winter clothing. We handed out stocking caps, gloves, socks, at least one heavy winter coat, a pair of shoes and more. We also had out a table with pastries for people to help themselves. It was 16 degrees out when we arrived, with a moderate wind, and it stayed about that temperature while we were there. We served around 20 people.
Most of our visitors only stayed for a brief bit. The shelter across the street was letting people in early, so most headed inside to get out of the cold. Our friend with the failing liver stayed and chatted awhile, as did a few other hardier souls.
A pair of men caught my attention. One was an older man, maybe in his sixties, and the other looked to be in his mid thirties. The younger man told us that he had just become homeless because of a drug addiction and seemed very down. He said he had been sober for a few days. We gave him several cold-weather items--gloves, socks, a hat, and maybe a coat, if I recall correctly--when the older man asked for a backpack for the younger man. He showed us how the younger man's backpack was ripped and the zipper wouldn't close. We found a good backpack for him. As the two men headed to the shelter, I could see the older man explaining things to the younger man. It was clear that he was teaching the newcomer how to survive on the street, and that the newcomer was fortunate to have such a mentor.
Please pray for, and care for, the poor.
Chippewa Valley Street Ministry Journal, December 8, 2016
Plymouth Street Ministry Journal, December 8, 2016
I must apologize for not getting a journal out until now, it seems that time slips away so quickly when I don't want it to. Anyway, we've continued to go out on the street on our usual evenings and we have continued to serve our brothers and sisters as we should.
Recently I received an email from someone from out of state who was inquiring about a family member. The person was concerned but she had heard about the street ministry in Eau Claire and was hoping for news and asked if we would keep an eye out for her family member. I knew the person in question and told her what I knew but that my information was several months old, Pastor Mike was able to assist with more recent information. The person inquiring was pleased to know that her loved one is relatively safe and appears to be in good health. I was happy to calm her fears and agreed to keep in touch with changes.
The reason I bring up the email is that I was reminded of a very important fact that I think we all forget from time to time in our busy lives: each person we serve, and each of all of us, is SOMEONE. The person we see with the backpack and worn out clothes and tattered shoes is someone's son. He may be a brother or a husband or an uncle. He's SOMEONE. The woman who comes to us looking disheveled with nothing but her story is someone's daughter or mother or aunt or sister. Again, she's SOMEONE. I am a volunteer, a student, a mother. How about you? Tell us in the comments who you are. You are SOMEONE.
We continue to see large numbers of newcomers to the street. One young man says he came from Traverse City, Michigan to hopefully find work and live in the Chippewa Valley. Another man is local but has been in and out of jail and has no where to go. It seems that our female population is less than usual, on Tuesday we served only 4 women to around 20 men. I would like to think this would be a permanent change but history tells us they'll be back. We're ready.
As the holiday season approaches and the wind chills start to dip, please remember the Street Ministry with your giving. While we have received a number of pairs of boots, we are getting nightly requests that we cannot fill. We need boots in good shape (no tears or holes ) or we will purchase boots if it is easier to donate monetarily. We try to take advantage of the discount stores or resale stores so your financial donation can be stretched a long way.
Thank you for your support, I frequently write that we couldn't do this work without you and I sincerely mean that. Keep those we serve in your prayers.
-Karen - street nurse