Chippewa Valley Street Ministry Journal - June 27, 2017
It was finally warm and sunny today, which was very much appreciated by our friends we see downtown. We gave out a few umbrellas - the people staying at the shelter are very aware of the weather forecast since they spend a
lot of time outside, so many like to be prepared for upcoming rain. One man we've known for a long time stopped to visit, he has been sleeping outside and the rain and the recent cold temperatures makes thing difficult for him.
One man we have known for a little while stopped and got a hoodie and asked for shoes - we didn't have his size so we will get him some by the next time we are out. This is where donation money gets used, many items like shoes we don't have so we will get items for people that in need. We also gave out t-shirts, socks, hygiene kits, backpacks, etc. to several other people. And once again we had donated pastries from Caribou Coffee to give out, this is a very welcome treat and we thank Caribou for the gifts!
We noticed a woman walking back and forth on the side of Sojourners, she was keeping her distance from the others. Cindy and I walked over to talk with her and she told us that she needed to stay away from the craziness that happens on the street. The woman has been seeing a doctor for her ankle, it is not healing properly which limits her ability to find work. She did tell us that she applied for housing. Michelle found out that she does have food assistance and gave her names of others that she can talk to for more help. Jenny does have a sister whom she says does not understand homelessness. Apparently, they do not get along. She also has a daughter, but cannot live with her. The daughter would lose her housing if she had someone staying with her.
Another woman that we've gotten to know came over and talked. She seemed in good spirits. She was able to talk with her mother who had been transitioned to a memory care center.
The woman with a mental health issue is unhappy with President Trump. She believes that he is not keeping his promises in helping her. She says that she has been waiting to get into a witness protection program. I did manage to ask if she had health insurance and she said yes. She showed us a video on her phone of her daughter singing opera.
The girl seemed very talented. The woman did mention a stepmother of her child. If this truly is her daughter, it makes sense that she could be living with her Dad and second wife.
We helped a woman who was very nervous/edgy. We gave her a backpack, clothing, and toiletries. She walked off with a male friend and said she had a place to stay for the night.
There are more and more women on the street. Some willing to talk, others that would rather not. They do come for a bag and it is a start in getting them to trust us and hopefully open up about their situation.
I traveled Rice Lake for my work and saw a young woman we have cared for previously in Eau Claire! She's doing well. She is living with her parents and in touch with the adoptive parent of her child.
A young lady staying at a local shelter with her parent was walking down the sidewalk near our ministry site. She's 14 years old. I was concerned about her being by herself on the sidewalk in front of many men in the area. I pulled her aside and told her I was concerned for her safety. I told her some of the men may be sex offenders and may think nothing of harming her. She said none of them had talked to her. I told her none of them was interested in talking to her, but they could and would hurt her, given the chance, and had little to lose. I hope she will take heed and be very careful about where she is and who she interacts with .
A lady I've talked to before had great news. She reported the opportunity to visit her mom, who is in a nursing home in Chippewa County. They haven't seen each other since Easter. She's excited about going to church, is seeking employment, her health is better and she was having a great day.
Near the end of the evening a young woman came stumbling down the sidewalk carrying a plastic bag, her purse and other belongings. She was out of breath and said she was sick. She said she hadn't eaten all day and was sick to her stomach. She also said she'd been robbed and a man had taken her wallet and all of her money. I asked her if she was on medication, and she said methadone, but had missed her dose the day before. I opened a juice box and she drank it. She had asked for shoes and other clothes, and we had a bag of things for her, along with a backpack to put them in. She sat down to try on her shoes, but was unable to unlace them and said her feet were too dirty to try them on. She said she didn't want to stay at the shelter because she'd had nightmares and called out in her sleep the night before, disturbing the other women at the shelter. She'd also soiled the bed and was embarrassed. I asked where she would be staying, and she said she could go to a friend's house. After a second juice box, she walked across the street to talk to a man waiting to enter the shelter. He walked with a walker and wore a body brace. They came back across the street with her, they gathered her belongings and left together down the sidewalk.
Chippewa Valley Street Ministry, June 20 & June 23, 2017
We are seeing an increase of visitors as the month goes by. We served 49 people on Friday, many of them new to us. I've written many times before that mental illness is prevalent out on the street and without a stable support system, access and continuity of care is difficult. Many of the new people we're seeing appear to be in need of these services. For both new people and those we see regularly, we've been giving out lots of socks and T-Shirts as well as the bags of food and water.
Speaking of water, it seems to be all around us. We've
have beautiful rivers and lakes in our area and we've had rain in abundance this spring. There are restaurants located downtown that provide customers with water. For our friends on the street, however, water is an often unfulfilled need. We provide water when we are out and encourage re-using the bottles during the next day but then the challenge is where to fill the bottles? Businesses don't always allow restroom use to non-paying customers, convenience stores aren't always nearby for a person to access the restroom sink. We encourage extra bottles of water to prevent dehydration each time we're out on the street. We always accept bottled water as donations!
We're happy for this man (left), he obtained housing a few months ago and will periodically stop by for a visit. He always has a smile and a laugh to share, and he and Brian (right) have a friendly Packer vs. Bear rivalry to discuss!
I listened in on a conversation that a frequent visitor had with us and found his insight interesting. He shared how he wants housing but feels it is imperative to plan for a change in work hours or other struggles. I had made an assumption that anyone in need of and wanting housing would jump at the opportunity but he is one person that is really thinking things through before making the commitment. Why? He shared that he has seen many people sign a lease at an apartment only to lose their job or have a change in jobs and then not be able to afford the housing. Ultimately he sees them return to the street and he refuses to have that happen to him. Once again, my assumptions were in error. I'm forever learning out there.
We've met with some Beacon House families, two of the kids are teens. They talk about their parent getting work, perhaps that employment will assist them into a home of their own. The kids seem close and its good to see the support they get from one another.
Thank you for your continued support and interest. Please keep our friends in your hearts and prayers.
'Til next time,
-Karen - Street Nurse - Social Worker
Chippewa Valley Street Ministry Journal , June 16, 2017
It was a nice evening on the street, our volunteers were Brian, Larry, Jake, Brent, Barb and myself. We often have baked goods or pastries to distribute and the sun often beats down and damages them. We put up an umbrella today to protect them with some shade and found that we also enjoyed the shade and protection from a few raindrops. We served between 40-45 visitors.
Barb spent a great deal of time talking with the woman we've noted before who has a significant mental illness, I was able to come and go in the conversation while talking with other women. The woman trusts and is comfortable talking with Barb and talked about a multitude of issues. We are both curious and concerned how she spends her days in the community and wonder how she is treated by those who don't know her.
Today she was very talkative and shared her concern about her fiance (who I believe is a movie actor) and her hopeful departure from the city. She shared that her fiance had been held in Mexico and tortured when they should be in Canada raising their family. She continues to believe that because of her lineage (she claims to be an offspring of a former First Lady), she is constantly being spied on, her laptop is being hacked and that for a short time, the shelter became invisible on the internet so that no one would be able to find her. She said it was shameful that someone with her background should have to stay at the shelter . She repeatedly noted that it was unfortunate that it would take military efforts to evacuate her from the city. After we left for the evening, I wondered if she is capable of living in in an apartment or if her mental illness is so uncontrolled that she would fail to follow through with rent payments or if she would be safe cooking for herself. Under her unusual behavior, we suspect that she is very intelligent. She articulates her thoughts well and reports having attended college at one point in her life
As is our practice, women volunteers focus our attention on women visitors. I was aware of the men talking to men but I don't know what their conversations consisted of. I did hear several requests for extra large socks, which we did not have with us. Please check our needs list for those and other needs.
Please pray for our brothers and sisters in need. Thank you for your ongoing interest, support and encouragement!
-Karen - Street Nurse - Social Worker
Chippewa Valley Street Journal - June 9, 2017
It was a beautiful, sunny, 84-degree evening. Barb, Brent, Brian, Chuck, John, Larry, Pastor Mike, and I were all out. The vans arrived at 5:40pm, we had a brief meeting, and then we began handing out bags of food, candy, water, and juice. We also had a table of books--mostly used, popular, paperback novels--and a table with donated pastries for the taking. Today water was in demand, and we provided it ice cold. Although we were busy for the first few minutes, our stream of visitors quickly dwindled.
I spoke with two of the three people who were burned out of their tent last week. One was rather quiet and the other was very philosophical about the incident. They have been left alone for a few days, have a borrowed tent, and are doing alright (their term--I wouldn't consider living in a tent with two other people because you are all homeless "alright").
A tired-looking man walked up to us and told us he had walked from highway OO, I think about 8 miles total from his description. I handed him a bag but his eyes really lit up when I asked him if he would like an extra bottle of cold water. Sometimes a simple drink of cold water is greatly desired, especially if you are homeless, can't just turn on the tap, and have to walk long distances in the heat.
We had relatively few visitors and requests tonight. I think that's great--we would like nothing better than to be put out of business because everyone is comfortably sheltered, clothed, and fed. Unfortunately, I think the need is huge and our number of visitors was low because we were in the hot sun with no shade in sight. We packed up at 7pm, but as we were doing so a family of five, the youngest still a baby, approached us, so we reopened the back of the van for them. We served around 28 people tonight.
Please pray for, and care for, the poor.
Chippewa Valley Street Ministry Journal - Friday, June 2, 2017
According to my phone app, the temperature was 88 at when I arrived at the municipal parking lot at about 5:30pm. Larry was already there, and soon Chuck arrived, then Barb, and then Pastor Mike and Brent driving the vans. One of our first visitors told us that the bank sign down the street read 90 degrees. Several people that came to see us were still wearing long pants and long sleeves and appeared uncomfortable in the heat.
Our friend BF, the Chicago Bears fan, stopped by and chatted with us for a long while. He has housing now, but still checks in at the shelter for mail. Another man, who looked vaguely familiar, also came up to us. He had been out of state and had recently returned to see family. After he left Mike reminded me who he was--we had helped him years before and now seemed to be in much better shape mentally. It's always good see improvement.
We talked with another man and gave him a pair of shorts and a T-shirt. The man didn't have proper shorts; he was wearing swim trunks, the closest thing to shorts that he had.
A young man approached us and asked for Pastor Mike. His employer had told him to go to Mike for help. The man is relatively new to town and had a job--his employer thought he was a good worker and wanted him to help him--but he couldn't find an apartment he could afford and was living at the shelter. Mike told him which agencies to talk with and what time the relevant offices were open.
About that time someone gasped. A man was walking toward the shelter on the other side of the street and appeared to be intoxicated. He had staggered in front of a moving car. Fortunately, the driver was alert and stopped without hitting the man. He didn't come over to visit us--we hope he sobers up enough in time to be able to spend the night in the shelter.
A woman who has been visiting us stopped by, and Barb spoke with her at length. The woman is delusional and tells far-out tales. We don't quite know how to help her--we just listen and try to help her stay safe.
Another man pulled into the parking lot and waited in his car. He was the same man who spends time at the senior center. Toward shelter opening time he came over and visited with us. He has plenty of clothing and food, but still lacks housing. He accepted a cold bottle of water and we gave him some advice about programs he could apply to and agencies he could contact.
A very young woman came by and accepted a bag from us. We were concerned for her safety because she looked so young. Mike gave her some advice about who to avoid and a card and a number to call if she felt in danger.
An older woman asked for summer clothing items. We didn't have
hem with us, but recorded her name and requests and will try to have them for her on Tuesday.
Two other people, a man and a woman, came over to the vans. They, along with a third person, had been living in a tent that overlooks the Eau Claire river. They prefer to stay away from the shelter when they can. They told us that a few nights ago--I didn't catch how many--another homeless man set fire to their tent while they were in it. The fire-starting man had claimed that one or more of those in the tent had stolen his bottle of alcohol.
We packed up the van around ten minutes after seven. We served about 23 people tonight. To most we gave a bag containing food, candy, cold juice, and cold water. With the high temperature the cold water was in demand, and we gave extra bottles to many. In my mind I noted how polite everyone was today. Nearly all our visitors were friendly and grateful.
Please pray for, and care for, the poor.