Chippewa Valley Street Ministry Journal December 25, 2018
We were happy to celebrate the holiday with our friends on the street this evening. Our volunteers were Brian, Adam, Michelle, Barb, Dean, Brent, Marge, Pastor Mike and myself. We all had conversationswith our visitors and different perceptions of the evening, this journal includes some of those perspectives. I hope you will read them and gain an insight into what we see. Thank you for your interest and support and as always, feel free to contact us. Our needs list will be posted later today.
I visited with a woman that we've seen a few times. She was having an interview today for home healthcare. She was very appreciative for the boots and clothing we gave her. She also said that her sisterwas going to help her get her car back which had been impounded. That made my day.
I spoke with a few different people but what meant the most to me was the observation of our visitors interacting with the street ministry's volunteers and the happiness that those interactions brought. While I try to be resourceful when out there and help to look for solutions to problems, sometimes quiet observation and reflection is more important. We need to learn from our guests about what they need and appreciate. For instance, Dean shook a gentleman'shand and wished him Merry Christmas. The man beamed with joy and I believe felt a much needed the acceptance and care from Dean. Empathy and care are truly the greatest gifts that we give to our brothers and sisters on the street. The joy and delight that it brings back to us is an amazing gift, as well.
The night of Christmas was in some ways a lot like any other night that we’re downtown – we saw about the same number of people as recent nights -- 35 or so. We gave out many of the same items that we doany other night: gloves, hats, coats, etc. But it was different in a couple ways too – the town was very quiet with most businesses closed and not many people around, and our friends staying at the shelter seemed a little more grateful than usual to see us. Some didn’t think we’d be there since it was Christmas, they thought that we’d be spending the holiday with our families, but as we pointed out to them, they are our family too. There was more emotion than usual – some of it was joy because we were takingtime out of our holiday to visit with them, but most of it was sadness due to not being with their own families. There were a few tears, several hugs, and kind words for all.
In today’s society, the people we so strongly care for may be dismissed by others as deserving of their homelessness due to addictions, mental illness, unemployment, veterans with PTSD, etc.Its important to remember that our brothers and sisters on the street are human beings just like all of us and they deserve love like we all do. Jesus made a point of caring for the poor and suffering, and showing that all humans are equal in God’s eyes – this belief is why I work with the Street Ministry: because it’s what Jesus wants us to do, and what better time to do Jesus’s work but on the celebration of His birthday.
Thank you again to all our donors, we couldn’t do what we do without your help and donations. I know you probably don’t see the results of your gifts, but all the people that we serve are verygrateful for the warm clothes and other items that you’ve given for them. Together we helped many people this year (I lost count but I’m sure we helped several hundred people this year!) and I’m sure that together we will do the same in the next year.
It seemed at first we would have a quiet night as there was no one on the street. Most businesses were closed and you could look all the way down the sidewalk and not see anyone. But then, all of asudden, people came in pairs, alone, or in larger groups. Some were quiet, some happy, some requesting a small item like gloves or a T-shirt, and many were grateful. It was nice to have a few extra toiletries to share and some snacks.
Spoke with a man who was initially stand-offish. He talked with me, but was short. He said he'd been at the shelter and sleeping outside for a few months, and had a court date on 12/26/2018, at whichhe thought he'd be detained. After a bit, he was a bit sheepish and apologetic, seemingly resigned to his fate. He said he'd gotten angry and reacted in a way that he shouldn't have and would probably be in jail for a while.
Being with our friends on the street on Christmas night was a gift in itself.
Chippewa Valley Street Ministry Journal, 12/14/2018
We had a relatively quiet evening tonight. Pastor Mike, Marge, Adam, Brent, Michelle, Brian, Mariah and I enjoyed the evening with the warmer air and little to no breeze. Tonight was Mariah's, our social work student, last time out with us as her service learning hours are complete. We hope she'll come back at some point to visit, Mariah was an asset to the ministry.
Near the end of our time out, I met a man that is in need of permanent shelter. He is in his mid 70's, a veteran and has multiple health issues which are mostly cardiac in nature. He is originally from out of state and came to Eau Claire to stay with his niece but that didn't work out as planned. He is currently staying at a shelter and not sure what to do. He was very insightful and shared the fear and uncertainty of walking this journey all alone. He spoke of the anxiety he experienced and his feeling vulnerable. The man answered all of my questions from the why's of his situation, his medical problems and the medicine he takes, to his finances and what he could potentially pay for rent. We intend on contacting groups that may be able to help him on his behalf and he had gotten a phone number from someone to contact at a veteran's office. He, like everyone else out on the street, shouldn't be there. On his gentle yet worn face, he had a sense of sadness. Still, he spoke of God being with him and believing that eventually, he'll be okay. I've thought a great deal about him and hope he can get the help he needs.
A few people had requested items from their previous visit such as boots and backpacks, we provided those as well as the usual bags of food, water and handwarmers. There were requests for jeans and coats, which we had with us. Thanks to you, we are able to provide these things consistently. Without your support, this ministry would not be as effective as it is. You make a difference.
The street ministry will be out on the street on both Tuesday 12/25/18 and New Year's Eve 12/31/2018. If you have any donations/treats you would like to donate for those we serve on these special days, let us know or stop by and drop them off. We would suggest to plan for 40-45 people.
Please check out the needs list and the rest of the journal. Share with your friends and family, let's continue to unite for the care of our brothers and sisters on the street.
- Karen - Social worker, Street nurse
Chippewa Valley Street Ministry Notes - Dec. 6, 2018
I know some of you may be wondering what we do with the money that we get from donations. 100% goes to running the Ministry, like for food and water that we hand out every Tuesday and Friday night, food or supplies for some of the families we support that are dealing with poverty, and to buy clothing items that we don’t normally get from donations like boots, coats, etc. One such instance came up this week – a man that we have known for a month or two has been in need of a winter coat, he had one but the zipper was broke and when you’re outside in the cold wind much of the day a broken zipper makes life miserable. I had been looking for one for a week or so but was having no luck finding one his size (4XL) at the local thrift stores. So with the weather getting colder we decided to get him a new jacket, I picked him up from work (he just got a job, yay!) and took him to Farm & Fleet and found him a good heavy jacket. He was so thankful and happy, it was a little emotional even. Think about that for a minute – when was the last time you were that excited and happy just to get a coat? So many of us today just take for granted the warm clothing we have for winter, but many people in our community don’t have that luxury. So when you see us asking for money, rest assured that we are using it to help those that really need a little kindness in their lives. Pictured below is Mariah, one of our student volunteers, and kids from a family we work with.
Thank you to everyone that supports our Ministry and know that you are helping make a difference!
Chippewa Valley Street Ministry Notes 12/2/2018
While you are aware that the street ministry volunteers are out in the elements with our friends twice weekly and year 'round, I want to share that we are at work beyond those hours. We take calls 24/7 and help our brothers and sisters however we can to help them reach their goals and needs. This last week alone we have been contacted by three separate families and an individual who were in need of shelter along with the other calls for transportation, food, or other needs. We refer to other agencies when appropriate and offer suggestions for people to be safe. It is heartbreaking to tell a mom that we cannot provide motel stays for her and her children and know that they may be left to sleep in their car, this is especially difficult in our current weather. We use a number of considerations when making the decision but often our decision is based on whether we are financially able to help as well if there are any other potential resources available. Your donations help us to provide care to all of the people we serve, whether its during our on the street hours or the off street needs. We appreciate any and all gifts!
Please note that on our needs list, our top needs are long johns / thermal -- bottoms -- in sizes large and bigger and gloves that are XL/2 XL due to the swelling some people experience in their hands from the cold weather. Please see the needs list for additional information. The forecast appears that our friends will be facing some cold weather in the next few days. We could use your help in locating these items or making a financial donation so that we can purchase these items.
Thank you for your continued support and interest. Keep the people we serve in your thoughts and prayers.
- Karen - Social Worker, Street Nurse