Chippewa Valley Street Ministry Journal - Tues. June 26 and Fri. June 29, 2018
It was a busy week for the street ministry. Tuesday night Brent, Barb, Chuck, Brian, Michelle, Dean, Marjorie and myself volunteered. Friday we have the same folks on the street, plus Larry and Kelly who is one of our experienced student volunteers. We served 53 and 47 people on those evening outs. Tuesday night Barb was kept busy taking clothing orders from 3 mom's that are currently homeless and their 11 children. On Friday our women volunteers were helping to distribute clothing that Barb procured during the week to support these three families and attend to any other special needs that they may have had. On both nights out we were kept busy working with 4 women that we determined were at risk living out on the street. It's a long process trying to serve these high risk people and quite often, more then a few turn out to be underage.
Friday night we had a visit from a elderly man who has spent many years living on the rivers edge, it is part of his native culture. We keep him supplied with sleeping bags, tents, and fishing equipment and any other special needs that he might have. Quite often the city will sweep along the rivers edge and confiscate and dispose of all his belongings, as well as other folks that are living there. It doesn't seem right that these small amount of possessions this gentleman and others own can be so easily confiscated and destroyed without them being able to recover their belongings at some point in time. But their homeless status doesn't carry any weight in our society.
During the week we also received calls from a 15 and 16 year old that had found themselves homeless and we don't know their situation because we were unable to get back in touch with them. There is no youth shelter in town and when we encounter these young people in the evening or on weekends it is very difficult to find them safe temporary shelter.
Please review our needs list below and we could use a few fishing poles and a small amount of fishing tackle to go along with it.
Please keep our homeless women, men and children in your prayers and meditations.
Thank you for your support.
-Mike - Street Pastor - Chippewa Valley Street Ministry
Chippewa Valley Street Ministry Journal Cont.
The last couple of weeks that I have volunteered on the street, I have had the opportunity to work with moms and their young children. As much as I love seeing the kids, I am sad to see that they are homeless. In spite of their situation, they always seem to be in good spirits. We ask the moms if there are any clothing needs. I love being able to help them out and seeing the look on the kids' faces especially, when they get a new pair of shoes.
It is important for all of us to remember homelessness affects all ages and to continually be a presence and offer support in their lives.
Chippewa Valley Street Ministry Journal - June 24, 2018
The people we serve have many hidden talents, they often are forced to abandon their crafts in order to simply survive day to day. One of our long time friends has drawn this picture to share, please look into it and find the multiple meanings. This individual has been living on the streets since before I started volunteering nearly 4 years ago. My first thought after meeting him and listening to him was that this was the kindest, gentlest man I'd ever met. I had no idea at the time that he was such a good artist. With his permission, we will share other works with you.
Chippewa Valley Street Ministry Journal - June 15, 2018
Even though there were thunderstorms in the area we managed to stay mostly dry when we were downtown Friday. I think we saw about 35-40 people. We gave away several pairs of shoes, many socks and boxers, some t-shirts, and a few other items, along with our normal bag of snacks and water for anyone who wanted it.
One man that we’ve know for a little while came to visit us. We worry about him because he has some mental health issues and has had trouble in the past having his medication available – whether it was stolen, or not being able to get a new prescription (i.e. he gets a 30 day prescription refilled and it gets stolen a week later – the doctor won’t refill it until that 30 days is up). He has trouble functioning without his med
s but is a pleasant person when he has them. He can’t stay at the shelter (not sure why – stayed too long or caused problems there?) so last week we gave him a sleeping bag and other supplies since he was going to have to sleep outside. Today he told us that his campsite had been found and his tent, sleeping, backpack and other items had been removed to prevent further outdoor living. Sadly, this is far from the first time we’ve heard stories like this and it seems to be a standard practice in our community. So I gave him a few more items to get him by, he was unsure where he was going to sleep tonight – and with rain in the forecast for the next several days he was really missing the tent that he had a couple days ago.
Another man that came to see us tonight was new to the area, he came from another town to get treatment at one of the Eau Claire hospitals for cancer. He had received a round of chemo today and had to go back for another round on Monday, but didn’t have any place to stay so he was at the shelter. Surprising, we’ve heard this type of story many times also. Eau Claire is a wonderful place to get medical care, but it can be costly which can mean no money left over for a hotel. We gave him some supplies to get him through the weekend.
On a more positive note, a downtown business is building planters and putting them along the street that the shelter is on. We haven’t heard an official story about these, but rumor is that they are planting some vegetables in them for use at Sojourner House.
Please continue to keep our friends who find themselves homeless, in poverty, or dealing with a rough situation in your prayers. And please consider a donation of supplies or money to the Chippewa Valley Street Ministry – together with your help we can continue to provide supplies, support, love, and empathy to these people who very much need it.
We have recently had the opportunity to meet with a woman and her three children who are in search of permanent housing. We met them through another local agency who contacted
CVSM to inquire about the possibility of assistance. Typically, we show pictures of the family in need but to honor the other agency's commitment to confidentiality, we are unable to provide any images.
The family has been approved for housing assistance but due to an eviction of her ex-husband, the woman has had no luck finding a landlord that will rent to her -- even with the guaranteed rent payment. The woman has taken some classes towards a nursing degree but due to her current situation, she is foregoing that dream until she gains stability. She works and has done everything we would suggest to gain housing, she simply hasn't found anyone willing to work with her. Currently, they are staying in emergency housing through a different agency but that will only be for 30 days.
The children are pleasant and polite. They are between 6 months old and 12 years old. The children are doing the best they can but, like all children, need stability. At this point, they have 30 days to not worry about housing but after that, unless they have housing, the family's future is uncertain. There is no local family or friends to house them. The worker that connected with us had nothing but good things to say about the family and in the short time I've spent with them, it was easy to see the positivity and efforts that the mother is giving for her family.
If you know of anyone willing to rent to this family, PLEASE contact us.
-- Karen - Street Nurse, Social worker
Chippewa Valley Street Ministry Journal - Notes, Thoughts, Reflections, June 5, 2018
Mental illness is often mentioned in our journals and it cannot be overstated. Tuesday night it was manifested in a very significant way.
Serving on the street was Brent, Barb, Jake, Chuck, Kelly and myself. As we arrived we spotted one of our longtime young friends standing up against the wall of the building next to the parking lot. She was acting somewhat erratic. This young person had a hard childhood: being sex trafficked at a very early age in her life, victimized in nearly every relationship she has been in, all the while living on her own and trying to survive without anyone to support her in her struggles. Abuse would be the one word that would properly sum-up her life. The street ministry has been her family the last three years. Mariah and Sam, two of our former students that served with us on the street while attending the UW-Eau Claire and are now social workers, still have a very close relationship with her and keep in contact with her. After we had a short staff meeting the young woman walked over to where we were setup and starting talking to Barb and Kelly. We noticed some twitching and involuntary body movements. We had her sit in the van while Barb and Kelly tried to find out what was going on. She mentioned that she may have taken too much of her depression medicine and a very large amount of aspirin. She added that she hadn't eaten in several days. In just a few minutes her condition seemed to worsen and her muscle tone seemed to be decreasing. Barb and Kelly took her to the emergency room to be evaluated and treated.
Toward the end of our night-out, a man that we know who is in his thirties came over from the shelter to tell us that someone had stolen his medication that he takes for his many mental health issues. He has often told us in the past that he has to deal with some major mental health diagnoses and we have seen him act out when he has been off his meds. I took him to the emergency room because he was becoming anxious and paranoid and we were concerned for his safety as well as the safety of others.
The same day, one of our long term friends that we have known for years and who also has had mental health issues, found himself in a lengthy standoff with the police and died from smoke inhalation as the result. We could go into more detail about his condition and the standoff but in respect to his memory we'll leave it at that and keep him and his family in our prayers.
Mental illness is one of the major issues that we see manifested on the street more often then not. I often feel sorry for the young shelter staff that have to deal with so many people with mental health issues at the same time. Often people who act out because of their mental health condition are seen as displaying bad behavior and end up walking the streets at night. The system is not able to care for all these folks and their only alternative is the street or jail and they don't deserve either alternative.
-Mike - Street Pastor - Chippewa Valley Street ministry
Because we do not require the people we serve to divulge their health history, we cannot provide statistics relating to the percentage of people we see that deal with mental health concerns. We expect the number to be high. After watching behaviors and hearing stories from individuals about their challenges, it would be difficult to come up with other causes for what we see and hear. Some people are very forthcoming that they are attempting to manage schizophrenia or bipolar or severe depression or other disorders. Regardless of whether we know a diagnosis or not, the fact remains that they are on the street and many are struggling. When we consider a secondary medical problem or addiction, it becomes nearly impossible to become stable.
There are many factors that need to be addressed for these individuals: transportation to and from appointments, insurance to cover appointments and medication, security of the medications, understanding of the need for treatment as well as a desire to be treated. Simply getting into a provider as a new patient is a challenge as there are not enough providers for the amount of people in the Chippewa Valley. I have heard of some new programs that are aimed to relieve some of the wait periods for services, this is exciting news and my hopes are high for their success. Still, factor in the same challenges already mentioned and for those living on the street, the obstacles continue to exist.
The Street Ministry volunteers know the people we serve well enough that a change in a mannerism or change in a facial affect will trigger a more specific discussion with a person about their safety and needs. They are our family, as has been mentioned multiple times, and we know them well. We care about them and attempt to make each person safe and sound. Pastor Mike shared stories about two individuals that were transported to the hospital. These were not isolated incidents, we've done this before and will continue this practice to ensure a person's safety. It is unfortunate that we've become so used to the mental illnesses that it takes these situations to remind us of how severe it can be.
Thank you for your prayers for the people we serve as well as the volunteers.
Chippewa Valley Street Journal, 06-01-2018
Friday was a pleasant night, no rain and warm but not too hot. Even so, we handed out a lot of water to our friends downtown – many of them have a hard time finding water in the daytime. Actually one of the people I was talking to had to go to the hospital the previous day due to dehydration. This is a common problem in the summer when it’s so hot, so we try to give each person as much water as they need, often 2 or 3 bottles.
It was a fairly quiet night, not as many visitors as we have had recently. But we did see a few friends that we haven’t seen in a long time, it’s always nice when people stop back and visit to let us know how they are doing. Sometimes they come back to let us know they’ve got housing or other good news, and sometimes it’s because they’ve fallen on hard times again and need someone to talk to or some support. Either way, we are glad that they feel like they can depend on us to be there for them and lend a supportive ear.
One man that we’ve known for a few months spent a long time talking to one of our volunteers. I don’t know his whole story, but I believe he just needed to vent to someone who would listen. Even though we are there to give food, water, clothes, etc. to the people on the street, we believe our real duty is to listen to them and treat them not as “homeless people” but as equals. That little bit of respect goes a long way to giving them a little bit of dignity back. Think about it – they spend all day being told what to do, where they can be, when they have to leave, etc. that they very rarely get to express their opinion to someone who will listen to them. I hope that we can make everyone we talk with feel heard and especially feel like they matter – because they do.
Thanks to the UW-Eau Claire student volunteers for consistently giving your time and efforts! Great work!