Chippewa Valley Street Ministry Journal - June 16, 2022
Originally, we were going to start this journal with a flashy "Happy Anniversary" or "Celebrate!" logo as June 2022 is the tenth year that the Street Ministry has been in service. During those ten years, we have been blessed with the opportunity to get to know and support some of our community's most vulnerable individuals and populations. Ten years as an all-volunteer, 24/7 organization that has been able to operate solely on donations and grants is something to consider celebrating but we've decided that it is selfish to celebrate ourselves when the core reason for our existence remains strong and unbeaten: homelessness. Rather than celebrate, we're acknowledging that we've served the needs of countless individuals over a decade and pray that our service is no longer needed over the next ten years.
We believe that if anything has changed from the time of our inception, living on the streets has gotten more difficult and more dangerous for our friends. There are fewer easily accessible services to support basic needs during the day. The population has shifted and there has been an increase in mental illness and addictions; there is an increase in vulnerable people and an increase in dangerous behaviors. Finding housing has become almost impossible in our city for anyone with a blemished rental history. The people we work with may find themselves homeless in an instant but they may remain homeless for years.
We do want to celebrate some of the good things that have occurred over the last ten years, we cannot deny that there have been some: we've welcomed babies, we've seen some people get housing and flourish, we've witnessed the benefit of housing for young children, we've seen the community pull together during an extreme weather event in ways never expected. We want to celebrate you, our support network. Without you, we could not do our work and support people the way they need and deserve.
We've selected the following photo as a representation of the Street Ministry. It represents who we serve, how we serve, where we serve and why we serve: we respectfully provide unconditional care and acceptance for unhoused individuals while preserving each person's dignity. We believe it is simply the right thing to do.
Retired Lutheran pastor blesses a newborn baby girl and
her mother who lived in a car for a portion of the baby's first few days of life. Currently, this mother and child are doing well.
As we enter the next year of service, please continue to support the unhoused, the Street Ministry and others who are working to meet the needs of our brothers and sisters.
- CVSM Staff
Chippewa Valley Street Ministry Journal - June 6, 2022
It's already June! It's hard to believe that spring is in bloom and we'll be approaching summer before long. With the change of seasons, we're already seeing sun exposure and we express our concerns of dehydration to our visitors. We offer additional water while we're out and share water with other agencies to help out. We provided sunscreen to those who stay outdoors most of the day.
For those of you living in the Eau Claire area, the community lost a couple of people that were special to the street ministry. Many people referred to Ivan as the 'Can Man;' his obituary is available and very interesting: Obituary for Ivan W. Ficken | Hulke Family Funeral Home & Crem Serv (hulkefamilyfh.com) We believe that all of us could learn something about want vs. need and living happily with less -- a difficult concept for many of us. Ivan spoke with street ministry volunteers on a regular basis. The other man was well known to the street ministry, especially in our early years. He had challenges in life but did the best he could to survive. He enjoyed housing for a period of time after being homeless for a great deal of time. We hope these men are both at peace.
Ivan, a gentle soul
We've talked about mental illness and addictions for years and years it seems. These are situations that don't seem to be improving and like so many other challenges that the unhoused encounter, there does not seem to be an easy solution to offer. A few weeks ago, a man approached us and demanded certain items. His agitation was palpable and concerning for everyone's safety, including his. Several of our volunteers worked to calm him and redirect his behaviors. He settled down and we were able to talk with him about his requests, the need for mutual respect and appropriate behavior in the community. We observed him interact with other people further down the street and his behavior had escalated again. Two volunteers approached him and worked to calm him. We saw him a few days later and there was little change to his demeanor. We are concerned for him and others that he shares space with -- will he react to something he perceives as a threat? Will someone react to his behaviors? This is just one person among many who struggle with mental health symptoms -- not sick enough to be hospitalized but sick enough to be compromised.
A man that we have worked with for years struggles with alcohol addiction. He admits that the decades of addiction have literally ruined his life: he's lost the ability to work in a trade that he'd been successful in, he has lost his family, his housing and his health is suffering. When sober, he is one of the kindest souls we know but when under the influence, he is unsafe. It is difficult to participate in treatment when a person is unhoused.; here are often too many variables to be successful with any type of program. He is just one of many people with addictions that we see on a regular basis and again, as with mental illness, there are no easy answers or solutions. We truly are concerned for their well-being and are relieved when they appear so we know that they've survived another day.
As I read this journal before posting it, I realize that this is not a heart-warming, lift-your-spirit type of writing. It is real and it is what we see and what we believe our community needs to know in hope of working together towards solutions for this vulnerable population. Please keep our unhoused community members in your thoughts, prayers, and actions.