Chippewa Valley Street Ministry Journal - December 29, 2021
As usual, we have lots to talk about but we'll try and keep our discussion to a few key concerns. First and foremost, we're worried about the weather. Our current mission is solely to keep people as safe as possible and alive from day to day by providing winter gear. The people we serve are extremely grateful for the items provided. Thank you for giving us the ability to consistently give sleeping bags, coats, gloves, boots, etc., that are so needed to be safe.
We were out on Monday and as we arrived, I checked the weather and it was +19 degrees with a 'real feel' of -3 degrees. Thankfully, the weather wasn't overly windy but there was a dampness to the air which added to the chill. The snow on the ground has an icy crust with plenty of ice to slip on underneath it. With few places to go during the day, there is an abundance of weather dangers to contend with besides hypothermia and frostbite. The forecast for the next week is cause for safety concerns for those living on the street and for the rest of us.
One of our unhoused visitors shared his frustration of having to be out in the cold after a recent storm in which there was both freezing rain and snow. He had wet clothes and was unable to access his dry clothing where he has it stored. He had gone from place to place trying to get clothing and warmth but was turned away or unsuccessful. At one point he had put his socks on his hands but then his feet were cold. He shared that he had been so mad and frustrated that he thought about ending his life, he felt he could not go on like that any longer. He showed up at our table with two different types of gloves, both which were in poor condition, but had been able to get his dry and warm clothes. We gave him new gloves and will continue to do to help him be safer. This individual is convinced that he has frostbite, we can't see any obvious signs of this on his fingers or toes but he chronically complains of pain.
There is good news to share: through the cooperative efforts of community agencies, committees, interested individuals and groups, a warming center is being developed. It was able to be open over the Christmas weekend to give people a place to go out of the elements. Until hired staff are secured, the center will be open only on select days, especially Sundays when the buses are not in operation. Please keep your eyes out for volunteer opportunities.
We're including a few photos to share what we see:
The snow is icy and reflecting the light off its surface.
Conversation with a guest. Christmas goodies were provided by a donor
and shared with each person who came to us.
Brent having a friendly conversation with a visitor.
Layers of hoodies, coats and blankets to stay warm.
It is cold outside and it is important to remember that not everyone is able to stay at the shelter at night for various reasons. Please keep the unhoused, unsheltered and highly vulnerable in your thoughts and prayers as they focus on surviving the elements from day to day, night to night. When the warming center is open on a regular basis, please consider volunteering or share the need with others so that the doors remain open and our brothers and sisters have a place to go during the day.
Thank you for your donations, your support and interest of the street ministry.
Chippewa Valley Street Ministry Staff
Chippewa Valley Street Ministry Journal - December 19, 2021
Since our last journal we've had two significant weather events: we had a significant snowfall as well as cold temperatures and high winds -- both of which put the people we serve at risk for cold weather injuries. The local shelter provided much needed safety and community volunteers came together to staff the facility. This isn't the answer, most certainly, and there are plans for a warming center to open in the near future to allow people to come in from the cold.
We continue to provide blankets, sleeping bags, and cold weather clothing including coats and boots to our visitors. One man shared that he has a tent and uses multiple blankets to lay on top of to keep the cold of the ground away from him and then covers with more blankets and a sleeping bag to stay warm. He won't share where it is but says no one has found it to tell him to move along or confiscate the items. He has been unhoused for approximately two years after his lease was not renewed. He was sure to explain that the lease was not renewed due to visitors and unwanted guests that had created problems for him and the property. He is concerned about frostbite and had been to a local ER the day we visited with him. Fortunately, there were no indications of frostbite at this time but he is at high risk with the amount of time he is outdoors.
We adjusted our schedule and were out on Friday, December 3 instead of our usual Thursday visit. Our time out coincided with the Eau Claire Clearwater parade; we had a good vantage point to see the fireworks. There was definite irony noted in that the parade is meant to celebrate winter but there are people just outside the frames of these pictures who are definitely not celebrating the season.
We served next to a man and his wife who provided bratwurst to our visitors (and us!) in the spirit of good-will. They do this completely independently of any agency and have been out several times. Our brothers and sisters appreciate the extra food on these cold evenings. (Photo taken and used with permission):
We have mentioned in previous journals that frostbite can occur at what seems a "not that cold" kind of temperature -- low thirties, and with a windchill those temps feel colder and create more risk. Hypothermia can set in at even higher temperatures. It is vital that the people we serve have protection from the elements by having access to a structure or, when that is not possible, appropriate gear to be covered. Thanks to you, we've provided coats, mittens & gloves, scarves, boots, thermals, winter socks, hand warmers and more! Thank you so very much for your dedication to keeping people safe. The following pictures are from 2019 but we wanted to remind you what the cold can do to a person living on the street after prolonged exposure. The risk is real and has occurred in this community. Pictures were taken and used with permission.
With the holidays approaching, some of our visitors have expressed that they feel lonelier and more isolated than usual. While some have families to be in touch with, many do not. Please keep our brothers and sisters in your thoughts and prayers as we proceed through the holidays. Please review the needs list and an update regarding plans and needs regarding a warming center in downtown Eau Claire.
Chippewa Valley Street Ministry Journal Alert - December 5, 2021
The weather forecast for the next week is concerning for all of our safety however the safety of those we serve is critical. Not only will the temperatures be falling but the wind will be a factor in the conditions. There are still few places for people to go during the day once they leave the shelter. Imagine leaving home around 7am or 8am and having no choice but to stay outdoors until you return to your home around 12 hour later. No one should be required to live like this.
For your own information...WIND ADVISORY REMAINS IN EFFECT FROM 9 PM THIS EVENING TO 9 AM CST MONDAY... * WHAT...Northwest winds 20 to 30 mph with gusts up to 45 mph expected. * WHERE...Polk, Barron, Rusk, St. Croix, Pierce, Dunn, Pepin, Chippewa and Eau Claire Counties. * WHEN...From 9 PM this evening to 9 AM CST Monday. * IMPACTS...Gusty winds could blow around unsecured objects. Tree limbs could be blown down and a few power outages may result. * ADDITIONAL DETAILS...Strong winds and rapidly falling temperatures will also lead to wind chills 5 to 15 degrees below zero early Monday. PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS... Use extra caution when driving, especially if operating a high-profile vehicle. Secure outdoor objects.
Silent night, Holy night
Individual sleeping unsheltered in local doorway
We are in need of coats in sizes 3X, 4X, 5X as well as 2X gloves and mittens. Please let us know if you have any of these items to donate. An additional needs list will be sent out later this week.
Please keep our friends and their safety in your thoughts and prayers.
Be safe and blessings to all.
Karen - Social Worker/Nurse