Chippewa Valley Street Ministry, Friday, 03-16-2018
We welcomed our fourth student out to the street with us, Lindsey was quite interactive and impressed with what and how the street ministry operates. We look forward to having her and the other students back with us after their spring break.
I am quite concerned about a woman that is relatively new to the street. She arrived from out of state after being led to believe by someone that housing is easy to obtain here. We don't know who she is referring to or a great deal about her background but I do know, after hearing and watching her struggle to breathe, that she has a significant respiratory illness. She reports COPD and adds that she is supposed to have supplemental oxygen and use a nebulizer. She says that being without shelter and having mobility challenges is too difficult to properly treat her disease. We provided a chair for her and patiently waited while she recovered, she told us that she'd had to walk from the Community Table to the shelter as fast as she could in order to get there on time. The increased exertion took its toll. We offered to call an ambulance but she refused, she said she was going to go to the ER the next day if she wasn't feeling better. I later learned that she has other medical conditions but is unable to care for some of her needs.
I talked to a man that I've known for several years, he had told me several weeks ago that he was going to need a walker to recover from a knee surgery he was expecting to have. He said tonight that he's going to wait a while longer and try to get comfort with cortisone injections. I had picked him up at the hospital after an ankle surgery a couple of years ago and brought him to the library to recover. It was my first interaction and realization how difficult recovery from health challenges could be. He is a gentle soul and I always enjoy seeing him.
One man came to us that typically wears a couple of caps or hats at a time. He has some mental health concerns but is usually quite friendly. One night he wore only one hat and was not conversational at all and we wondered what might be bothering him. Tonight he returned and had his usual multiple hats on and was back to his pleasant and smiling self. I was telling Lindsey my observations and she commented on how it was neat that we are out there so consistently that we can gauge a person's feelings by their clothing, posture, speed of their walk, etc. I appreciated her comments and she's right, we get to know the people we work with quite well and we believe its our steady and dependable care that makes a difference in the lives of our brothers and sisters.
As always, thank you for your support. Please keep those we serve in your thoughts and prayers.
It was a relatively quiet night, we served only around 35 people. The volunteers talked about where some people might be and questioned why we hadn't seen others. As our evening ended, we watched our friends line up to enter the shelter and we left to go our separate ways, each of us knowing that our service made a difference to someone. Thank you for your support and donations, without you we would not be able to do our work.
-Karen - Social Worker, Street Nurse
Chippewa Valley Street Ministry, March 13, 2018
Today was our first visit to the street since we've all turned our clocks ahead for daylight savings. Being out and talking to people during daylight hours seemed to ease people's moods, there generally seemed to be more hope in the air. Hope is a feeling that we cannot and must not take from the people we work with, or anyone else, for that matter. Without that hope, there certainly cannot be expectations for growth or change.
We met with a woman that we haven't seen for at least a year. She uses a walker and has had struggles over her life with poverty, the death of a child, vulnerability and much more. She reports that she was back on the street because the apartment building she'd been living in had been torn down to make improvements in the city. She was hopeful to work with the same agency that she had in the past to relocate to permanent housing. Her big smile and joyful attitude brightens our day. After she had visited for awhile, Beth helped her get her walker off the curb and assisted her across the street to the shelter.
We met with a couple that we see regularly that are desperate to find housing as the woman is pregnant and they have been approved for housing assistance. They report that there is a deadline in which to find housing but because of his history and other circumstances, they have found no one willing to work with them. I am frustrated, as are they, that they've gotten funding for a home yet are still living on the street. Their past is determining their future and I'm not sure that's always a fair policy.
The man I wrote about last time that has had a stroke returned to see us and we gave him the transportation material that Brent had researched for him. He pointed to the horizon and said "Far, far" and eventually needed to open his wallet to show us a business card of the agency he was getting some help from. The agency is located in the courthouse -- just across the river from where we are located -- so its not far but with his severe speech deficit, he had done the best he could to try and explain and be a part of the conversation. I haven't figured out what kind of plan he has in terms of finding housing.
Our regular volunteers were joined by students Tori and Elizabeth. I enjoy teaching new volunteers what we do on the street and about the ministry. We will have four students this semester, by the end of the semester I hope they will have learned about a world they likely don't' have a lot of experience with.
In all, we served around 40 people. It seemed a little less busy to me and that is okay: while I love what we do, I know that increased numbers is not a positive thing for our community. We were able to spend a little more time with the people that did come by and with hope, maybe some of those that we didn't see were able to find shelter elsewhere.
Please keep the people we serve in your thoughts and prayers. Thanks, as always, for your continued support!
-Karen - Social worker, Street nurse
Chippewa Valley Street Ministry Journal. March 9, 2018
While there was no rain or snow, the air felt damp tonight. We were grateful that there was little to no wind to add to the chilliness, however it was still cool enough that we handed out multiple pairs of gloves and hats. We served about 45 of our friends by providing necessities, support, and friendship. One couple who doesn't stay at the shelter but had heard of us came to ask for prayer, Pastor Mike obliged them with that and away they went.
The focus of my journal note is the time I spent with a gentleman that many of the other volunteers knew but it was my first interaction with him. The man has had a stroke, apparently a significant one, as he has no use of one arm and he has a major speech deficit. He could say 'yes' but the word also could mean 'no' as when he shook his head back and forth, he still said 'yes' but with a different tone and his facial expression changed. The man tapped on his chest and counted "One, two, three ... ," and continued to eleven. I suggested different situations as I tried to determine what he was referring to but never did figure it out. He showed me his identification from out of state and some of the business cards he has collected from places in Eau Claire that he has been to and is attempting to get services from. He also showed me that he takes several medications and was able to say "Pills, pills, pills" and seemed to understand the need to keep those medications with him at all times. We provided a backpack, underwear, socks and gloves to the man and he teared up with his gratitude. Brent is looking into transportation assistance at a local agency for this person. This man is extremely vulnerable and is of great concern to us. I hope and pray that he will not be on the street for long.
I was fortunate to be able to visit with multiple individuals this evening. They shared their successes and challenges, their laments about the weather and their hopes for warmer weather soon. Not having a permanent place to stay means that many people must carry all of their belongings with them everywhere they go. During the winter, it can be taxing to keep track of hoodies, coats, boots, backpacks and the contents of the backpacks, gloves, etc.
I would like to mention again the increase of people we see with mental health concerns. Many of the people we see are untreated and clearly not in control of themselves. This can be a safety concern for them and us so we limit the number of volunteers that work with them to not threaten the individual but also to have consistency from one visit to another. We hear many reasons for their noncompliancy: transportation, lack of insurance, scheduling difficulties. Managing one's health can be difficult when finances and needs are met, imagine how difficult it is when every day is simply an act of survival.
We welcomed two social work students to the street as they volunteer with us for their service learning requirements. Tori and Ian were introduced to what we do, who we serve and why. We hope they will take a great deal away from their experience. It is an ideal setting to learn about social justice, resilience and challenges that this population of people face. We shared our pride in working with donations alone and also shared that we have an amazing support system -- you!
Thank you for your ongoing support and interest, we truly could not do our work without you. Please pray for those we serve as well as strength and safety for our volunteers.
-Karen - Social Worker, Street Nurse