Chippewa Valley Street Ministry Journal, February 20, 2022
It was cold on Friday evening. It wasn't just cold but windy, the kind of wind that you could not just feel but you could hear and see the results of the blowing: snow swirling down the street, snow and ice crystals pelting our skin, and at times, the passing cars were hard to hear because of the wind coming from around and between the buildings. We had seen the forecast and knew the windchill would be well below zero but we chose to be out and be available for any of our unhoused brothers and sisters who might need us. By the time we arrived, the temperature was 24° but the "real feel" was much lower.
02-18-2022 @ 5:31pm
When we arrived, a volunteer that had been waiting for our arrival had noticed a man trying to get out of the wind by pressing up against a nearby building. We approached him and asked if he needed help and he said that he did. We invited him to where we had set up and assessed his needs; he had a lightweight coat on but it wasn't keeping him warm, he needed warmer gloves and he said he hadn't had enough to eat that day. We provided a chair near the van and out of the wind, covered him with a blanket, and gave him some food as we gathered the items he needed. He didn't talk much but he seemed content to be with us -- strangers to him -- while the wind continued to blow and the temperatures dropped. After about fifteen minutes, we escorted him to the shelter and helped get him and his belongings inside. Around this time, we checked the weather and the wind speed was 18mph with gusts of 45 mph. This man did not know where to seek shelter prior to our arrival and his health and safety were in jeopardy. If he had been the only person that we served, we felt we had made the right decision to be out; it had been worth it to ensure his safety.
Man that was struggling to find safety out of the wind.
There were a few other people that came to us that needed coats, warmer gloves, or boots. We gave out sweatpants to layer over clothing and had already warmed up hand warmers to slip into gloves or mittens in addition to the unopened packages of hand warmers we provided for later on or the next day. Understandably, few people wanted to stay to visit. The shelter opened its doors earlier than their normal opening time to provide for safety during this wickedly cold and windy evening.
Volunteer keeping a watchful eye out for guests
We always wait for a bus to come to the area and drop off people that may have been at the library or elsewhere during the day that would keep them out of the elements. Once we felt that anyone who needed us had been served, we departed. The weather feed noted no snow but there was snow falling rather steadily at this time.
02-18-2022 @ 6:43pm
Thank you for the support and donations you've steadily provided over the years. Your support is especially appreciated as we provide items to keep a person warm, safe and fed as we did this evening.
Please keep our unhoused brothers and sisters in your thoughts and prayers during these extreme weather events and in days of calm.
Blessings to all, stay safe!
Chippewa Valley Street Ministry Journal, February 1, 2022
We’re nearing the end of January and we’ve been experiencing winter in full force. While we don’t have an abundance of snow, we have cold temperatures that have created very dangerous conditions for everyone, especially our unhoused brothers and sisters. We continue to give out cold-weather gear to help keep people protected and encourage them to find a place, really any place, that they can get out of the cold.
Last week when we were out, we listened to a man report that he had needed a bathroom badly and the location he’d gone to did not have an available bathroom – it was locked. He had ended up urinating in his pants and had walked in the cold and asked us for clean and dry clothing. We gave him jeans and sweatpants to layer for warmth and gloves with extra hand warmers. He was shivering and proceeded to the shelter for the night. We’ve known this man for a number of years, he appears to have lost significant weight in the last several months and we know has a medical problem with his feet. His safety is of absolute concern to us; somehow, he seems to get by day to day and we hope his resources and ambition to survive don’t run out.
Another visitor came wearing one-size-fits-all gloves, those are fine in milder temperatures but not in the frigid weather we were experiencing. She was very grateful to receive mittens to put over the gloves and hand warmers to slide into the mittens. She tried to make light of the situation and said that she hoped she never heard anyone complain in the summer about 90° weather and added that she’d trade a hot day for what we’re having now.
On most evenings, we focus on the here and now and attempt to keep people warm and safe. When we're off the street, we talk about the traumas that people are experiencing now that pile on top of other traumas they've experienced in their lives. Each day living unhoused potentially layers more trauma on each person and we wonder just how much a person can manage? Will they ever recover and how? Is it really fair to expect anyone in that situation to consistently make sound decisions or changes in their life when the immediate goal is survival? Trauma survivors need to have some control over their situation, the people we serve should participate in decisions being made for them. They are often afraid, uncertain and feel the shame of their situation from the larger society.
Finally, we've talked with a number of people who asked how they could get into jail without committing a serious offense so they would have a place to stay, especially during the bitterly cold days when there have been few options for safety. In jail, they would be sheltered from the elements, be able to sleep, and receive three meals per day. Obviously, the jail is not designed or expected to shelter the unhoused but it says something of the times for this to be happening.
Thank you for your support of the street ministry. Please keep our unhoused neighbors in your thoughts and prayers now and always.