Chippewa Valley Street Ministry Journal Friday, July 28, 2017
Tonight was a relatively quiet evening. John and I arrived at 5:45. Barb, Brent, Larry, Pastor Mike, and Wendy were already at the municipal lot and Brian and Chuck showed up soon after. We served 29 people--fewer than we expected. Perhaps it was hot enough that people stayed indoors until shelter opening time, but it didn't seem too hot to me. It was 82 degrees and sunny.
We handed out bags of food and bottles of water, as well as a few pairs of shoes and some pastries. We gave extra water to anyone who asked or who looked like they could use more. I spoke with one man for quite awhile. He has been looking for affordable housing for many weeks. He has an income but the only places he can afford have no openings. He has his name on many lists and we hope he can find something soon. We left at 7pm.
Please pray for, and care for, the poor.
Chippewa Valley Street Ministry Journal - Friday, July 21, 2017
Ten volunteers! Brent, Brian, Chuck, Cindy, John, Karen, Larry, Pastor Mike, Wendy, and I were all out. It was a nice evening in the upper 70s, and the forecasted rain didn't appear.
We were fortunate to have so many, because, at least at the start, we were very busy. Brian and John were assembling bags with snacks and cold water bottles in the back of one van. Brent was finding clothing and other goods for people in the other van as well as recording needs of people for things we didn't have with us. Cindy and Wendy were handing out bags and talking to and helping the women visitors. Karen was as well, and she also spent time helping a man keep track of his housing applications. (As a side note, the number of homeless women visiting us seems to have grown substantially recently.) Chuck, Larry, and I were handing out bags to the men visitors and talking to them. Pastor Mike was doing a little of everything, well, actually, doing a lot of everything.
By Brian's estimate, we helped 42 people, including handing out 39 bags with snacks, food, and water; two tents; three sleeping bags; five or six backpacks; several pairs of shoes; an umbrella; many pastries; and undoubtedly, a few items I didn't notice. Tents, sleeping bags, backpacks, and shoes are usually items that we don't have on hand--people request them and we try to have them by the next time we are out.
I want to emphasize that the material goods we hand out, while very important, are still not as important as the relationships we build. We listen to and try to understand the needs of our visitors. Much of the time Brent, Brian, John, Larry, and I were preparing and handing out the bags, talking with those who stopped by briefly, and providing needed supplies while Chuck, Cindy, Karen, Mike, and Wendy were all engaged in long conversations and relationship building with those who needed special attention, just needed to talk to someone, or needed to vent.
As always, please pray for, and care for, the poor.
Chippewa Valley Street Ministry Journal - Friday, July 14, 2017
A woman we know came across the street grimacing, as if she were in pain. We asked if she was OK, and she said she was not, but declined our offer to stay in a motel for a night or two to get some rest. She is grateful for our support, too proud to take more than a few clothing items, and fears for her safety on the street. I often wonder what series of events has caused some of our friends to be staying at the shelter, or on the street. What decisions have they made? What have they had no control over? What about their families? What did they think and feel when they had no other options but to come to the shelter. I cannot imagine how I would feel in their shoes, and am grateful.
who is elderly is no longer able to stay at the shelter and has spent the last few weeks sleeping outside, received a new pair of shoes. She was wearing a pair of flip flops and said she absolutely needed the support of good shoes because of the amount of walking she does. She accepted our offer of a few nights in a motel, but declined to ride with any of us. She rode the bus and Angie and I met her at the hotel. She was already 'checked in' and awaiting our arrival. Angie and I went to get her a gift card from a local fast food place, and she met us in the parking lot thanking us profusely for all our assistance.
I no more than got back to the church and Pastor Mike received a call from the motel clerk. Our friend had complained about the cleanliness of the room and insisted on being switched to another. The motel clerk told Pastor Mike she was unable to do so, and that our friend had previously been on a 'do not rent' list - and they didn't want any more problems. I returned to the motel to see if I could resolve the situation and met with our friend. I listened to her concerns, which included the lack of cleanliness and the location of the room in the building. I gently told her the options were to stay in the room she was given, or to get on the bus and find another place. I reminded her about our relationship with the motel, and that we couldn't jeopardize it with lots of complaints or special favors. She reluctantly agreed to return to her room, indicating she would not be able to sleep, and that her bedroll may provide some sense of security.
This woman believes she is being watched and had just returned from Washington D. C. where she intended to 'be rescued' and stop the perceived surveillance. It must be overwhelming to feel this way. During the course of our evening together I asked if she had a plan to find another place to stay, or perhaps to work somewhere. She said she would not be able to do so because it would bring unwanted scrutiny to those around her. Imagine not being able to reveal your identity because you don't want to be tracked. Ultimately, she's not sure if she will stay in Eau Claire or move on, as her options for shelter while remaining anonymous have pretty much come to an end. My gut says she really wanted to stay in the motel because her other option was to stay on the street, but her anxiety and paranoia overtook her when she was in the room.
What will become of street friends, especially the women, and especially those who are mentally ill and are of no harm to themselves or others at this point? They are so very vulnerable and we fear for their safety and well being.
I was glad to have the opportunity to talk with several people tonight. One woman I've gotten to know said that her ankle is getting better and her hip was better today. It has been hard for her to walk normally with her ankle in a boot and therefore it has affected her hip. She said she has an appointment next week. Hopefully, the bus pass has helped make things easier for her.
I had not spoken with a man that we've gotten to know in quite awhile. He has stayed sober, goes to L E Phillips three times a week, and is now working at Arby's. He told me his former significant other is still working at a church but has been living with her ex boyfriend in a nearby community. He has talked with her and she still tells him she loves him and is affectionate towards him. It is hard on him and confusing. He realizes he needs to focus on himself and get his life straightened around.
Another woman talked about getting an appointment for a mammogram for her mother. She will be able to be with her at the appointment. The woman seems devoted to her mother and goes out of her way to help her.
The last woman I spoke spends her days writing, she is a frequent visitor and lives with a mental illness. She was smiling and in great spirits tonight. She said that Trump has let her down, but she now has another savior in a man we believe to be an actor but she says is a head of an organization. She has quite a bit of time left at Sojourners, but we are worried about what will happen to her when that time is up.
Friday, July 14, 2017
We had a large number of volunteers tonight: Angie, Barb, Brent, Brian, Denise, John, Karen, Michelle, Pastor Mike, and I were all helping. It was warm--mid 70s--but not too hot. It was sunny and we now have a patio umbrella that we set up for shade for our visitors.
And we did have a large number of visitors! We served somewhere between 45 and 50 people. I've been out of town and haven't been out for a few weeks, so I expected to see some unfamiliar faces, but I was surprised at just how many there were. A couple of our regulars commented on the number of new people at the shelter, and on how full the shelter has been lately.
We gave out bags with snacks, cold water, and cold juice, and gave out additional cold water bottles to many. Brent was kept busy distributing T-shirts and socks and taking requests for jeans and shoes.
We also saw a large number of mentally-ill homeless people tonight. They are often very vulnerable to exploitation. I wish we could do more.
Please pray for, and care for, the poor.
Chippewa Valley Street Ministry, July 14, 2017
I have written multiple times about the mental illness that we see on the street. I would like to mention it again simply because I want you to be aware of what we're seeing and, quite honestly, I know there are mental health professionals that may have some suggestions for us. We are reaching out to professionals in various disciplines privately as well, but I think it would be great to have a conversation about the issue of mental illness on the street.
Again this evening we met with the woman who believes she is a daughter of a former First Lady . Her unusual thinking is not our concern but her safety is a frequent worry for us. While we know and accept that we can't "fix" her, we want to do everything we can to ensure she is safe. We believe that she is very vulnerable, the lack of ability to protect her in some way is very frustrating.
We attempted to provide a motel room for
one of our elderly women with some mental health concerns, she was hesitant to stay due to her anxiety, fear and concerns of the cleanliness of the room. She has been someone we've cared for for well over a year, she is very private and we feel blessed when she comes to us and has a conversation. She is older and has been sleeping in parks in a sleeping bag, a practice that is typically not accepted with law enforcement. Again, we aren't trying to "fix" her problems but we want to provide some sense of safety for her. In her current situation, she is anything but safe.
These two women, as well as others who we care for with suspected mental illness, have consumed our conversations and thoughts over the last weeks / months. For those who seek medical and / or therapeutic care for their problems, it is made difficult with transportation challenges, medication costs, keeping their medication secure or consistently taking medication. I have no answer, rather I have hopes and dreams for these people and that someday they will live stable lives and be safe.
Please pray for all of our friends in need and for the Street Ministry volunteers to have the strength and courage to continue our work.
As always, thank you!
Chippewa Valley Street Ministry, July 14, 2017
We were fortunate to be able to replace these shoes on Friday with a sturdy pair of donated shoes. The man was surprised, grateful, happy and somewhat shocked that the shoe exchange happened so quickly. He said he had walked in these for so long that they fell apart. Your donated items can mean the world to our brothers and sisters out there!