Chippewa Valley Street Ministry, 2-20-2018
We served about 48 people this evening. I tried to keep track of how many gloves we handed out but my efforts were quickly quashed with all of the people we were meeting. We were inundated with requests for sweatpants and thermals as well as hoodies and coats. So many of the people asking were new to us so we knew we weren't giving the same people the same thing as on a previous visit.
One of our long-time visitors, a woman we've written about previously who appears to have cognitive challenges and her behavior is that of an adolescent, announced that she is pregnant. We'd heard rumors of her news in previous weeks but none of us had been able to confirm it with her, tonight she was forthcoming with the information. I so wanted to show excitement for her! The reality is, however, that she is without permanent shelter and struggles to keep herself safe, among many other issues. One of my favorite things about this young woman is how she connects with a person and from then on greets us with genuine hugs -- as if she hadn't seen us in many months and is afraid she won't be able to see us again. We'll watch her with concern as long as she comes to visit us and attempt to evaluate her safety.
I hope that you have been able to stay away from the illnesses that have struck so many people. Several of our visitors have come to us and are congested, complaining of sore throats, coughing and so on. I cannot imagine being sick and not having the comfort of my home. These folks are loaded down in the bitter cold with their heavy coats (hopefully), backpack(s), and any other belongings they need with them. They can't sleep their illnesses away in their bed, some can't get basic pain over-the-counter medications, even getting adequate nutrition and hydration is a challenge. The street ministry does not provide medication for liability reasons, all we can do is encourage medical services as warranted.
Because we were so busy, I didn't have a lot of detailed conversations to share. I would like to affirm that your donations are definitely used! Please take a look at the needs list. As a reminder, we work only as volunteers and are able to care for our brothers and sisters with your support and donations.
Thank you for your continued interest. Please pray for and remember those we serve as well as the volunteers who give their time and love to each individual out there. And, as always, feel free to contact us with questions or comments. We love to hear from you!
-Karen - Social Worker, Street Nurse
Chippewa Valley Street Ministry, 2-16-2018
The air temperature was around 18° but it felt much colder. It seemed damp, perhaps that humidity, in addition to the breeze made us all a little chillier. We served around 45 people, our average as of late.
Before we started our visits, we were greeted by three men of the Vets Fighting 4 Vets, a nonprofit organization from Menomonie, WI. They spoke with Pastor Mike for a few minutes and then departed in search of talking with vets in need at the Community Table. Our volunteers gathered for an informational meeting, as we usually do, to get us all on the same page as far as who is needing what and who we need to be watching for.
Not long after our meeting I spotted a younger looking woman with a cane standing on the sidewalk and looking bewildered. I approached her, she shared that it was her first night at the shelter and that she was terrified. We shared a little bit of conversation and, seeing her fear and how cold she was, I offered to sit in a vehicle to have some privacy and warmth. During cold evenings we typically park at least one vehicle near the vans for this reason but also so that we're in sight of others. While she was walking with me she stated that she was a vet. While getting her settled, I motioned to Pastor Mike and asked him to get the veterans that had previously been with us back to the parking lot ASAP. The woman and I continued to visit and within five or ten minutes the vets were there and between them and us, a game plan was created.
I encouraged the woman to downsize the amount of items she would bring into the shelter. She has a vehicle for a short time so she had a place to keep the non-essential items. When the time came, she gathered her courage, said a prayer and we (the vets and I) escorted her to the shelter. While I spoke with staff, the vets scoured out individuals staying at the shelter who were also veterans and would keep an eye out for the safety of the woman. I provided my information and left them.
After a short time back at the vans, a large man arrived and was very short of breath. He was gruff with each word that he spoke but I suspect that is simply his way and not directed at any individual. The man coughed hard and I worry about his health. We bring a chair with and someone had gotten it for him. He managed to get the question "Where are those vets?" out, apparently he had seen or heard them while at the Community Table and, as he also is a veteran, he wanted to spend some time with them. I ran over the shelter to let the vets know and we all returned so they could talk with the man. After a few minutes, with one vet on each side of the man, they walked to the shelter -- arm in arm -- and made sure he was safe and secure.
We left prior to the Vets Fighting 4 Vets group coming back to the parking lot. After having watched them and thinking of the woman I had worked with earlier, all I could do was smile and think that the unconditional love and compassion that we share with our friends in need is such a simple exercise. These actions may be driven by our faith or spirituality, a code that we've aligned with, or maybe its simply a personal need to give to others. Regardless of the cause, it is really very simple to just be kind. Those of you who have read my journals know that I am passionate about the street ministry and our work, it is nights like this that refresh me and give me hope for those we serve.
A special thanks to Vets Fighting 4 Vets for your help -- check out their Facebook page.
Please remember our friends in need, they need all of our support as they walk their journey. Thank you so much!
- Karen - Social Worker, Street Nurse
Hello, Friends ~
We have been keeping busy with increased numbers of visitors while we're on the street. It is concerning to have so many people in need of shelter. We have journals to share! Please read each journal entry and as always, contact us with questions or comments.
Chippewa Valley Street Ministry Street Journal February 13, 2018 - Notes,
Thoughts and Reflections:
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:
Xenophobia is the fear and distrust of that which is perceived to be foreign or strange. Xenophobia can manifest itself in many ways involving the relations and perceptions of an ingroup towards an outgroup, including a fear of losing identity, suspicion of its activities, aggression, and desire to eliminate its presence to secure a presumed purity. Xenophobia is a political term and not a recognized medical phobia.
I have often thought how our homeless friends and the working poor unfortunately are placed in this category. Many people outside of this category do not want to try and understand those who live in poverty and will blame the poor for the ills of society. This imbalance in society allows the poor to have to bear stereotyping along with being shamed and this ends up becoming a part of their struggle.
This year's winter has been brutal for those who live on the street. I have often looked at the forecast and noted the word "frigid" attached when describing the upcoming day. Brent and I talk weekly with several people who live outdoors year round and we can tell they are having a hard time surviving this winter, they look exhausted and weak. I talked to a man Friday night who had tears in his eyes when describing the difficulty he was having coping with the weather these last few months
Brent, Barb, Michelle and I were on the street Tuesday night and we served over 45 of our friends. The last half hour out we were rushed with request for gloves, hoodies, long underwear, sweat pants, winter coats and hand warmers.
We also have been seeing a lot more youth, both female and male, coming by to talk with us. We question whether some are the legal age that they need to be to stay at the shelter, but because there is no youth shelter in the city, they have no choice. Being young in an adult shelter puts them at risk and it can become dangerous if they are there for any extended period of time.
We also have 3 young women that have told us they are pregnant. Over the nearly 6 years the ministry has been in existence we have seen
approximately 9 pregnant women go full term while living on the street. Several people also told us they have the flu, others have been asking for couch drops and many more are sick for a variety of other reasons. Being homeless doesn't give you a chance to rest and recover from your illness properly and those who are sick are exhausted physically and mentally.
We will attach a needs list at the end of this journal. We have given out a lot of clothing this winter so far and the cold weather is far from over. If you can help us with your gifts it is much appreciated. Please keep our friends in your thoughts and prayers
-Mike - Street Pastor - Chippewa Valley Street Ministry
Note from Barb:
As I sat in church tonight listening to the words from Isaiah 58 – “Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?” I could not help but think about the people we see on the street. From the young 18 year old man who says he has been on the street before and supposedly knows the ropes, to the young mothers pushing their children in strollers through the snow who give me hugs and are thankful for the things we have given them, to a young woman who is pregnant yet again and can barely take care of herself, to an older woman who believes she has cancer and no family or friends for support. I cannot help but wonder how do they cope, is there hope, is there a brighter future for them. I can only pray that they know by our presence, that they are worthy and deserve a better life.
Note from Michelle:
Thankfully, it was a bit warmer on the street last night. Pastor Mike, Brent, Barb and I greeted a steady stream of friends coming to receive a bottle of water, some snacks and a smile or hug. There was appreciation of the weather and many were in a good mood.
Unexpectedly, the last half hour we were inundated with a crowd of young people, some familiar, some new faces, all in need of something. They waited their turn, but crowded around the table,
takingbags of food and water and asking for mittens, hats, pants and boots. One woman came back multiple times with different young men in tow helping them ask for things they needed. The people we serve have a great deal of compassion and empathy for one another.
Near the end of the night a man said the shelter was too crowded the night before and he didn't think he'd be able to stay there overnight. He asked if we had a blanket. Thanks to the generosity of our community we were able to provide a sleeping bag, backpack, warm socks and mittens, along with some ideas of places to rest without being bothered. He was grateful, but I couldn't help notice how exhausted and defeated he seemed.
As we were leaving a man was pacing in the parking lot, growling and barking. It appeared he was hallucinating and we made sure everyone was safely in a vehicle before leaving. Before we drove away, he seemed to collect himself and wished us a good evening before heading across the street to get in line for the shelter.
Please pray for the poor. Pray for those seeking better circumstances, those unable to obtain them and for all of those who try to help.