Chippewa Valley Street Ministry Journal Wednesday, January 30, 2019
At 5:30pm, when I arrived at the municipal parking lot which serves as our headquarters on the street, AccuWeather said it was 17 degrees below zero and that the "RealFeel" was 34 below. Usually the Street Ministry is out on Tuesdays and Fridays, but with the polar vortex bringing extraordinarily cold temperatures to Eau Claire we were out tonight and will be out tomorrow as well. Tonight Barb, Brent, Chuck, Marj, Pastor Mike, and I were there with two vans of supplies. Many folks came and visited us. We offered each a bag with several disposable hand warmers, a bottle of water, and some snacks, and tried to help with special requests--most were cold weather related--as best we could.
We distributed many pairs of gloves and sets of long underwear, as well as at least one heavy winter coat, one hooded sweatshirt, a scarf, and three backpacks. We took an order for a pair of boots; we didn't have the correct size in the van. One woman pointed to the pair of boots she was wearing and thanked us. The Street Ministry had given them to her last week. "Without you, I'd be dead," she said. While that might be a bit of an exaggeration, with temperatures reaching -30 degrees maybe it is not so far-fetched.
One man who visits us has a brain tumor. The bright light from the LED lantern on our table of pastries bothers him, and we usually turn it off when we see him. It was so cold, however, that we were unsuccessfully fumbling at the knob in our mittens. Chuck finally just tucked it under his coat. It is sad that someone with such a medical condition must sleep in a shelter. To be honest, it is sad that anyone must sleep in a shelter. Nevertheless, the people that stay there are very grateful for its presence, and so are we.
Many organizations have helped in this crisis. A city bus pulled up to the shelter and let off a number of homeless people. The City of Eau Claire provided free transportation from Positive Avenues, a day-time shelter where many homeless people took refuge today, to Sojourner House, the shelter across the street from our parking lot. Mike ran across the street and thanked the bus driver and gave the driver some hand warmers. We also noted the increased presence of the Eau Claire Police Department. We were told they were looking for homeless people out in the cold to bring to safety. Sojourner House opened early so people wouldn't have to wait outside. The shelter has been short on groups providing the nightly meal, so tonight we (the Chippewa Valley Street Ministry), ordered 30 pizzas for the homeless in Sojourner House. The pizzas arrived at about 6:30.
A woman drove into the parking lot and talked to us for a few minutes. She has been following us on social media and asked if she needed to be a member of certain church to volunteer. We told her no and that, in fact, we do not all attend the same church. Although the Chippewa Valley Street Ministry was started by people whose religious convictions encouraged them to help the poor, we welcome volunteers from any faith, or none. We do not proselytize, and help anyone who needs it without regard to their faith. We (usually Pastor Mike and anyone else who wants to) do pray with people in need, but only when it is requested by them first. Brent gave the woman a business card and will talk with her in a few days.
Chuck and I noticed an elderly man shuffling toward the shelter on the opposite side of the street. We have known him for several years, but age and years on the street have been hard on him and he has slowed greatly. Chuck crossed the street with a bag for him. Another man stopped by in his car. He was recently evicted from the trailer he was renting after the trailer was sold to a new owner, and he now sleeps in the shelter while he looks for permanent housing. He brought good news--he told me he has a job interview coming up. We wish him good luck.
We packed up around 7pm. Mike and I estimated that we helped about 35 people tonight, not including those served pizza at Sojourner House. I was glad my car started. I checked the temperature--it had dropped to nineteen below. I'm writing this at home after I've warmed up and eaten a warm meal in my warm house. Please remember the poor, especially those for whom a warm meal in their own warm home is only a dream.
Chippewa Valley Street Ministry Journal 1/29/2019
As you know, it was cold on Tuesday night. It wasn't simply a jacket, hat and mitten wearing kind of cold but a relentless one that cut through layers and could damage skin. The one thing the cold didn't break was our spirit and desire to be with the people we serve and who need our care. During the day, many states were placed in a state of emergency due to the frigid weather. The temperature was -9° when we arrived and about -14° when we left. The windchill was about -36°, enough to cause serious injury or death. In fact, people in nearby states have died due to the cold. Businesses and services around the city were shutting down. Still, our friends in need of shelter remain and we were compelled to be out for them. By the time we were ready to leave, a light snow had started falling. With the increasing winds, the light snow seemed to be coming down with a force that stung the little bit of skin that I had exposed to the air.
Brent, Barb, Pastor Mike, Chuck, Marge and I served our friends. Michelle and Brian came for a short while and we welcomed Tracy and Shawn, who checked out what we did and will come back. We served approximately 30 people, many came and left so quickly that I may have missed seeing a few people. Some came and didn't want the food or water that we always provide but rather wanted just hand-warmers or simply to check in with us and visit for awhile. We had numerous people drop by with donations (AWESOME!!) as well as a much appreciated drop off of hot chocolate and coffee (THANK YOU!!)
The weather was the topic of the day everywhere we went, in fact a fundraiser was initiated on the ministry's behalf due to the cold weather which was exciting to learn about. The funds collected will be used for our regular services as well as to expand the ministry into newer areas. We will use some of the funds to purchase pizzas and other food for the guests at Sojourner on Wednesday and we will provide other meals as needed.
We provided numerous hoodies, boots, gloves and thermals tonight and took requests for items that we didn't have with us. Fortunately, the shelter had opened an hour or so early so our friends did not have to linger in the frigid weather. It was simply too cold and dangerous to be out for long periods of time. The cold weather will continue and we will be out on the street for extra visits.
Please keep yourselves warm and safe! Also keep our friends and volunteers in your thoughts and prayers. Until next time -
- Karen, Social Worker, Street Nurse
We were happy to welcome our volunteer George back to the street. For those of you who are newer to our ministry and journals, George was a founding member of the ministry and has amazing insights of what we see out there. Please read his journal!
Chippewa Valley Street Ministry Journal, Friday, January 25, 2019
It was zero degrees when I arrived at 5:35, and seven below when we wrapped up a few minutes after seven. Chuck, Karen, Larry, Pastor Mike, and I started with a brief meeting, but soon after we had visitors. We handed out bags with snacks, beef sticks, water, and our most requested item, hand warmers, and also had a table set out with donated pastries. We also handed out several pairs of gloves, long underwear, socks, at least one hat, and a hooded sweatshirt.
One man told us that his tent and sleeping bags (his and his friend's) had been taken away. We gave him two sleeping bags, but didn't have a tent with us. We will try to get him one on Tuesday. We also offered him a sleeping mat made from plastic bags to insulate him from the ground. He was familiar with those mats, and was very interested in it, but didn't have room to carry it. He asked if we could keep it for him until Tuesday and of course we said yes.
Another man, who had been given long underwear and socks recently, thanked us profusely. A third man was only wearing light sneakers on his feet. We offered him boots but he declined our offer. Yet another man was returning to Chicago. We gave him a large, used suitcase that he had requested a few days before.
A younger man parked a car, came over to us, and asked where he could sleep tonight. We mentioned the shelter across the street but he told us he couldn't stay there because they (those running the shelter) were Democrats and were persecuting him. We assured him that anyone, regardless of their political beliefs, could stay in the shelter, and that the shelter was not run by any political party. He then admitted that he had been banned from the shelter for 90 days for arguing with the staff. We mentioned another shelter run by conservative Christians that might be more to his liking, but was familiar with that shelter as well, and wasn't happy with it either. We offered the man a bag with food and hand warmers but he declined pointedly, saying that he, as a Christian, could not accept food because the Bible wouldn't allow it. One of us tried to convince him otherwise, but he seemed adamant and still angry so we didn't press the matter. He soon drove off in his car.
Mike spotted an elderly man (whom we have known for years) walking on the far side of the street. Mike took a bag and he and I crossed the road and spoke with the man. Mike has been trying to get him into permanent housing, and the two arranged to meet next week. Mike will help him with the necessary paperwork.
Another man we have seen often had found housing, but the owner of the trailer he had been renting sold it and the man was evicted and was once again homeless. He said he has called many places looking for a room but almost no one returns his calls.
We noted a request for a bike. A man who bikes as his main transportation, even in winter, said the frame of his bike broke. Mike told him that we had a bike, although it wasn't as fancy as the one that had just broken, and that we could get it to him soon. The man said yes and was very grateful.
In all we served about 30 people. We were just wrapping up when Michelle and a friend of hers stopped by with more bottled water and other supplies, which we loaded into the vans.
Please pray for, and care for, the poor.
January 18, 2019
It was cold tonight, the thermometer in my car registered 12° when I headed home. It did snow a bit and we were thankful that there was not much of a breeze. Marge, Brent, Barb, Pastor Mike, Larry and I were out in the elements.
I've volunteered for several years now in the hottest of days and as well as in the cold and usually can manage the weather. Today, however, I struggled to stay warm. I had warmers in my boots and mittens as well as a hat and a good coat with appropriate clothing on. After approximately 1.5 hours, I began to shiver excessively. Finally, I admitted that I was too cold to be useful and sat in a warm car that was running just for the purpose of keeping volunteers warm. While I sat in the car enjoying the warmth, I reflected on the privilege of the heat but I also had an appreciation of the experience I'd just had. I had been so cold that I was shivering and shaking; I could see people talking and could hear noises but was so distracted with my own discomfort that I couldn't concentrate on anything else. It occurred to me that people living on the street are already at a disadvantage with fatigue, possibly hunger and definitely stress when they are trying to make decisions that affect their daily lives. Adding this cold weather simply adds to to their challenges. When I considered my own experience in the cold for that short 1.5 hours and how I couldn't focus because of it, my outlook on our friend's lives was adjusted: I'm in even greater respect of their survival skills and experiences. If providing a pair of gloves, hand-warmers or a coat will help alleviate even some of that discomfort, I'm happy to help. If the Street Ministry can do more, even better!
We listened to the story of a man who had been to court and was very frustrated with the experience as he'd been found innocent yet still has fees to contend with. We spoke with the father of the children that have been housed successfully for over a year now. Its always good to see him and hear the stories of how the children are doing. We provided several hoodies, jeans, gloves, thermals and warm socks. We had some boots to provide to a few people and others put their names on a list and will locate boots for them at our next visit. We served around 25 people, not as many as usual and we decided that due to the cold, some of our friends had perhaps found other places to lay their heads for the night.
Looking ahead at the forecast, our friends will have more cold, wind and snow to contend with. Please keep them your thoughts and prayers. They appreciate the donations you've made for their benefit and offer their thanks. As always, please contact us with questions!
- Karen - Social Worker - Nurse
Chippewa Valley Street Ministry Journal - January 15 & 18, 2019
We often write about mental illness and addictions contributing towards homelessness. Tonight was no exception. A woman came to us whom we have previously had contact with. She was fairly calm at first stating that she knew there were people far worse off than herself. However, her attitude quickly changed as she became agitated and spoke in a loud voice that she had been kicked out of places during the day. We suggested places that she should go to for help, but she would have none of that. All we could do was listen and hope and pray that she made it throughanother night on the street.
Another woman was with a man and whispered to us that he had a brain tumor. We did not hear their story. As they slowly walked across the street to the shelter, we could not help but wonder why they were in this situation and did not have housing.
There were many requests for gloves, long underwear and snow boots on this cold and windy January night. We can easily help with these needs. Please pray along with us for the emotionally and mentally ill people who struggle to get the necessary support and assistance that they need.
Chippewa Valley Street Ministry Journal, Jan.8, 2019
Being homeless requires that you be able to persevere in difficult weather. Living in Northwest Wisconsin leaves youopen to all kinds of weather. What do our friends do if it starts to rain or what if it snows? How do they dry their clothes, how do they keep warm? What if the temperature is 90°+ or what if the temperature drops below 0°, how do they navigate on ice? These are just a few of the problems our friends face out in the elements.
Tuesday night on the street was just one of those severe brutal weather encounters. The temp was down to around 14°with a real feel @ -8°, the wind speed was 27 mph, gusting at 36 mph. Brent, Barb, Marge and I served on the street this evening. People seemed to be staying inside where they could find warmth before they were ready to make the trek to the shelter. The shelterhad opened early tonight but many of our friends stopped by first for gloves, long underwear, headgear and other warm clothing. Many expressed their gratitude for us being there to provide these items for them.
This is the kind of weather that causes additional stress in their already fragile existence. I can remember nightsin past years when some of the people we served were in tears because of the pain the weather had been causing them. If you would like to help out, we are running short of long underwear, especially bottoms of all sizes. We are almost out of backpacks --the larger the better. Water and candy are also welcome. Please remember our fellow human beings in your prayers, thoughts, meditations and givings. This is not just about charity, it’s also about justice for all of God's children. We served around 30 tonight.
A Buddhist monk sets an example on how to show
respect for one another.
- Mike - Street Pastor
The photo below: A Buddhist monk sets an example on how to show respect for one another. Respect and dignity are incredibly important to each and every one of us. Please read the captions on the photo.
Chippewa Valley Street Ministry Journal, 01/11/2019
"God bless you all!"
"You make a difference to us."
"You guys are amazing!"
"We couldn't survive this without you."
"We rely on you being here."
These were a few of the sentiments I heard while we were out this evening. The people we serve have sincere gratitude for the items and support we provide. We freely explain that we rely on donations and there are very special people providing the items. We'd like to share the gratitude with you, our amazing network that supports us. Thank you!
Marge, Pastor Mike, Brian and I kept busy handing out thermals, backpacks, hoodies as well as items that had been requested from our last visit. We don't always have the right size of boots with us, for an example, or an unusual sized item and occasionally, we have to ask our visitors to come back at our next visit so we have time to obtain the item and get it into the van for them We also provided the usual bags of food and water that are so greatly appreciated.
Because we didn't have a large number of volunteers, we were all kept busy and did not have many long conversations. I recognized several people and saw many people that were new to me. All were grateful to have relatively mild temperatures and little to no wind to contend with. We had approximately 30 people visit us tonight.
Please take a look at the needs list and help us provide necessities to the people we serve. We are always in need of monetary donations, as well.
Thank you so much for your on-going support of the ministry. The comments from our friends at the beginning of this note truly do need to be shared with you. Together, we're making a difference!
Pastor Mike and I went to Our Saviors United Methodist Church in Mondovi, WI for a presentation about the street ministry and to collect blessing bags that the youth group had made for the people we serve. Met many very kind people and wonderful to see so many children participating.