Chippewa Valley Street Ministry Journal, February 22, 2019
We had a nice evening out on the street tonight: the sky was clear, the temp was manageable and the wind was nearly absent. Our volunteers were Brent, Barb, Tracy, Carrie, Brian, Larry, Chuck, Kat, Marj and myself. The weather was calm and very different than what we expect on Saturday and Sunday. Our friends that came to visit verbalized their frustrations of the snow and cold.
Carrie and I spoke with a gentleman that shared his opinion that people who he expects would be able to help him don't seem to understand his mental illness. He talked about hearing voices and having paranoia. He talked about being a part of multiple programs in different counties in his past, we encouraged him to seek help locally but I was not convinced that he would do that. When we work with people having a mental illness, its often difficult to know whether their need for housing should be addressed first or if they need mental health treatment first. One provides stability to treat the other but depending on the person, its often hard to know which direction to guide them to.
We were visited by one of the women we've written about multiple times over the years that has struggled with multiple issues. This was somewhat of a surprise as we hadn't seen her for several months and no one seemed to know where she was. She looked thinner than I remembered but said that she had gotten connected with a therapist and knew she had to work on her past before she could be successful in her future. We were very proud of her for finally verbalizing that understanding. We encouraged her to go to each and every appointment and take advantage of the opportunity.
Another woman we talked with is someone else we've known for a long time. She looked like she'd gained a little weight but was still what I'd consider gaunt and ragged. The woman said she weighs about 105 lbs. with her boots on. She is difficult to understand but I was able to decipher that she was recently diagnosed with hepatitis B and she shared the options for her treatment. The woman cried and hugged me, after some time she decided she needed to continue on to wherever she was sleeping tonight.
With the upcoming forecast, we are concerned about the well-being of the people we serve. We're still giving out sleeping bags and tents, I cannot imagine what it would be like to sleep outside in this weather. Please keep our friends and the street ministry volunteers in your thoughts and prayers as we continue through this winter.
Thank you so much for your support!
Karen - Nurse - Social Worker
Chippewa Valley Street Ministry Journal February 6, 2019
You could sense a sadness in our homeless friends tonight after they had taken a severe weather beating this last week. There were a few days of reprieve from last week's long deep freeze when temperatures dropped to approximately -30° below and then rose to an almost balmy 40° above in just a matter of days. Because of the 40° + temperature change, the snow started to melt. Then came a dropping of temperature with ice forming, and the town became dangerous to try and navigate. We went from trying to get around on ice to a snow storm dropping 4 to 5 inches in a relatively short period of time. Tomorrow they are talking about another storm hitting the area and our street friends just wanted to feel that everything was going to be alright. Our ministry volunteers reassured them that the emergency procedures from the previous week would still remain in effect for this impending storm.
Brent, Chuck, Marj, Tracy, Stephanie, Carrie and myself served tonight and all of us were kept very busy. We were visited by approximately 35 of our homeless friends tonight and please keep them in your thoughts and prayers.
Mike - Street Pastor
Chippewa Valley Street Ministry Journal February 8, 2019
It was cold out tonight with a bitter wind adding to the misery. Brent, Barb, Larry, Chuck, Marj, Tracy, Elizabeth, Carrie and myself served on the street. We were all kept busy making sure people had proper clothing to withstand the elements. We gave out two hand-warmers to each guest and more to those who requested a few additional. Many of our homeless friends were requesting longunderwear, heavy socks, gloves, winter coats and hoodies. We also took requests for winter boots if we didn't have their size in the van.
We suspected mental health issues among a few of the people that we served tonight. One young person seemed to be having problems with self-care. He was severely under-dressed for the weather and was being encouraged by others that we needed warmer clothing or he wouldn't survive the elements. He provided him with a winter coat, stocking cap, gloves and heavy socks. He was then unsure of what to do next or where to go once he received his clothing. A couple of street ministry volunteers gave him assistance crossing the street over to the shelter. This young person and an elderly gentleman that we encountered earlier in the evening, who seemed traumatized by the weather and who was unable to communicate his needs to us should never have been on the streetin the first place, they needed to be in a health care facilities that could care for them in their most fragile state.
Chuck and I met a man wearing a sleeping bag that covered his whole body. He opened the sleeping bag just wide enough to communicate with us but said he didn't really need anything in the area of clothing except jeans. He did except a bag of food, water and hand-warmers. Volunteers helped him across the street so that he wouldn't be hit by oncoming traffic.
Please keep our homeless brothers and sisters in your thoughts and prayers.
Mike - Street Pastor
Chippewa Valley Street Ministry note February 8, 2019
Love. And grace. They’re the only words I have to describe what happened last week.
City and county employees and community members who came together to plan and carry out measures to protect some of our most vulnerable neighbors. Those who showed all manner of love and grace by their financial support and sharing of food, blankets, socks, long underwear, gloves and all number of material goods to make sure all are cared for. The police officers who shared their experience and sense of humor in ensuring all of us remained safe. The bus drivers who braved the cold to transport our friends from one warm place to another. Those who walk with our friends every day, providing shelter, counsel, food, friendship. Our community who cares, and isn't sure, sometimes, how to help. Love. And grace.
I took a break from volunteering on the street to help serve a meal at the shelter one evening. Folks were cordial, almost jovial. Cold and tired, yes, but appreciative. Some expressed surprise that the community would care enough to send a bus so they wouldn’t have to walk to the shelter in the cold. Others laughed loudly and teased their friends. Still others sat quietly waiting their turn. So much grace.
But there is much to do. The weather changed, and will again. And that’s not something we can do much about. But we can do something about ending homelessness. We can continue to love our neighbors. It might take a lot of money. Certainly it’s going to take a lot of work. And it’s going to take many of us rolling up our sleeves, stepping out on faith, perhaps being inconvenienced, to really love our neighbors. We’ve just gotten started.
And grace abounds.
The picture below is Stephanie, one of our volunteers, shoveling a path so our friends can more safely get to our vans and tables.
Chippewa Valley Street Ministry Journal February 5, 2019
On Tuesday of last week, we were facing the first of several days of brutal frigid weather. Today we received significant snowfall and are expecting more snow over the next few days. The street ministry went out this evening and intends on going out additional times this week to provide for our friends. Out tonight were Chuck, Marge, Carrie, Stephanie, Pastor Mike and myself. We served approximately 30 people.
We provided necessary items such as gloves, underwear, jeans and boots as well as the food and water we routinely provide. One gentleman requested a sleeping bag, I couldn't help but wonder if he intended to sleep outdoors in the heavy snowfall or he had some place with a cover from the snow. Another visitor shared that he had been "bumped" by a car that had slid into a crosswalk. He said he was stiff and sore but otherwise unhurt. What seemed more important than anything else was the contact that our visitors had with us. Many were surprised that we had ventured out on the streets that were in poor condition, others seemed to want to forget the snow and have a conversation about their day. We often say that many of the people we serve have nothing but their story and they have no one to tell it to. We are happy to engage in those conversations and simply listen. We are a ministry of presence, a community and a family. If we can help in other ways, all the better.
Pastor Mike and I discussed the current conditions of our friends and pondered how much more can they take in terms of the weather. Many are exhausted physically, mentally, or both. Some look haggard and unsure how to navigate one more snowstorm or find one more safe place out of the cold. We heard comments about how "old" it is getting having to manage being on the streets in the extremes we've had over the last several days. That statement was more true for those folks living out there than those of us who are definitely inconvenienced by the traffic, having to clear driveways, etc. It's a matter of perspective and mine changed a little after hearing that.
Please keep our neighbors on the street in your thoughts and prayers, and thank you so very much for your ongoing support.
Here's a few pictures from tonight:
Chuck and Pastor Mike setting up
Street Ministry van -- the snow is coming down fast!
One of our friends coming towards us.
Marj, Karen, Carrie, Chuck
Chuck and a friend
Earlier in the evening, Marj and Karen helped to shovel an area
at Sojourners. Later on, we received help from a friend that has
been staying at Sojourner House. Heartwarming!
Pastor Mike visiting with our guest.
Chuck is talking with our visitor
wearing a sleeping bag.
Here's the dedicated volunteers from tonight.
A crescent moon and clear sky can be seen above the shelter.
Chippewa Valley Street Ministry Journal, February 13, 2019
As a group, we decided to delay our time on the street from Tuesday to Wednesday due to the winter storm that bore down on the area on Tuesday. We pride ourselves in being out with the people we serve but on Tuesday, we felt that our volunteers' safety would be at risk and that we needed to reschedule. On Wednesday, Carrie, Elizabeth, Tracy, Brent, Pastor Mike and I were out to serve our friends in need.
Brent had gone to the lot where we set up ahead of us and plowed an area so we could more easily work and visit with those who came to us. The city plows had cleared the major streets by then but had not had the time to clear sidewalks so we shoveled an area for our visitors to walk on. Once we set up, our visitors started coming and enjoyed the pumpkin bread and banana bread that Elizabeth and Tracy brought as well as the other food and water that we had for them.
Carrie and I spoke with a man that was looking for assistance with some needs, he was working with a local agency but had hoped we would have a way to expedite the services. It was difficult to determine which of his needs was greater but because he had active help, we told him to continue with that agency and offered other needs. He understood but was disappointed that there wasn't immediate help.
Another man that we initially didn't recognize came by to tell us that he now had an apartment. He'd gone through treatment, was getting assistance with his mental health and looked and acted completely different than we'd seen before. We pray he'll maintain his success.
Several people asked for socks, specifically DRY socks. While we've provided boots over the season, with the current depth of snow along with the unshoveled sidewalks and unplowed roads, snow gets into the boots and causes wet socks and uncomfortable feet. We're always concerned about foot condition so are happy to provide dry socks. We are grateful for your donations of socks to help us care for those we serve.
Karen - street nurse/social worker
Tracy stands where we shoveled to peer over the snow
towards the shelter.
Marj is ambitious!