When I arrived there was a young woman that has been a familiar face to the ministry leaning next to the van drinking several bottles of water. She has not been on the street for some time but recently had a falling out with her "roommates" and was asked to leave. She only had a small backpack of clothing items with her. She struggles with anxiety and other mental health issues so the recent situation caused her to have a panic attack and seek help at the Emergency Room. She was checked over and given some medication to relax and sent on her way. She was very warm from walking a long distance to get to the shelter. She does not have a car or bus tokens so is on foot at this time.
After letting her get cooled off and re-hydrated a bit we were able to talk more with her about her needs and concerns. She expressed the need to get her furniture and a few other personal items out of the apartment she was in as soon as possible. She has no income or way to support herself at this time and has been denied for disability. She is an amazing artist and takes great pride in that but it does not generate any income for her. She is not eligible for a housing program at this time so really has several barriers to overcome in the next few weeks. Arrangements were made to assist her in getting her essential items out of her place this week.
After talking for some time about the practical needs that she had we asked her if there was anything we could pray with her about and she responded quickly that she wanted prayer for a few personal things. We were able to pray with her and give her a much needed hug and leave her with the peace that we would connect with her later this week.
Homeless Service Coordinator
LE Phillips Career Development Center
Chippewa Outreach Office
Plymouth Street Ministry Journal--Friday, May 27, 2016
Wet, busy, and crazy.
Wet. It wasn't cold--it was in the low 70s--and when I arrived at 5:40pm it wasn't raining. A couple of minutes later, however, there was a steady downpour that lasted most of our time out there. Often there was enough wind that it came down at an angle, making it very hard to stay dry. We (Becky, Brent, Brian, Karen, Larry, Michelle, Mike, and I) were all soaked by the end of the night. Our visitors were also soaked, even those with umbrellas.
Busy. We served around 40 people, giving each a bag with food, a water bottle, and a protein shake or juice pouch. We also distributed clothing and at least one backpack, although we did not have enough umbrellas and rain jackets which, naturally, were in demand tonight. There were few moments, despite the rain, when we had no visitors.
Crazy. Mike tried to warn a man to stay clear of another man who had been acting very aggressively. The man Mike warned for some reason didn't appreciate the friendly warning and started shouting at Mike incoherently, and then stormed across the street. The other man, the one we had warned about, came over a bit later, and was very loud. Although he didn't threaten us, he was very provocative. He then went over to the shelter side of the street, only to return 5 separate times to complain or comment about some thing or another. We tried to calm him down, but since he seemed like he wanted someone to challenge him, we tried to ignore him as nicely as possible. I fear he will try to pick a fight with someone tonight.
Here are few other of tonight's events: A man stopped by and dropped off clothing for the ministry. I didn't catch his name, but thank you! A woman, one of our regulars, stopped by in a car with three children and chatted for a few minutes, but I was didn't hear much of that conversation. The rain picked up and was so hard that the shelter let people in early and we thought that we might have fewer visitors, but that was not the case. A young man came by--I've seen him before--and talked to Mike about his situation. He had bought half of a trailer to live in, but the person who owned the other half stopped paying, so now he pays all of the bills and can't get the other person, who has been taking advantage of him and who brought in yet another person to live there, out. Another man asked Mike for help--he has a court date in a city 45 minutes away--but it is too far for Mike to drive him on that day. Yet another man said he was diagnosed with a disease, got depressed, and, as a result, started drinking again and got himself into an even worse state.
A bit later a couple approached us, but stopped about 20 feet away. The man came up and received a bag, but the woman just stood there under a small umbrella. She was in stocking feet--no shoes--and was wearing ill-fitting pants that were soaking wet from the knees down. We approached her and asked if we could help. It was became clear to us that she was under the influence of a substance. She has trouble focusing, couldn't enunciate clearly, was incoherent when she did speak, and couldn't walk well. Unfortunately, we had no shoes that fit her, but we did give her dry socks to put on once she got the shelter, and some other dry clothes. I think she was somewhat angry with us because one of us had asked if she had taken drugs recently, although I doubt she will remember the conversation. Just before 7, when we packed up and left, a woman came by in a minivan that was packed to the roof. We took a bag of food over to her. I'm guessing that van held all her worldly possessions.
We left a few minutes after seven. I don't want to leave the wrong impression. Most of our visitors were sober, calm, grateful, and are just down on their luck. Others are fighting hard to overcome their addictions or their mental illness. The ones we most remember, however, are the ones we see at their darkest times, when mental illness or addiction brings out bizarre, threatening, or unusual behavior.
Please pray for, and care for, the poor.
I don't recall a time being on the street when it rained as steadily as it did this evening for our entire time out. We were soaked to the skin but were grateful for the warmer temperature as it could have been freezing.
For part of the evening, Becky and I found ourselves in the van talking with one of our regular visitors. This woman and her young children were without shelter for the night and we came up with a plan so they would be safe. Because of not having childcare or a place to stay, the young woman had not been able to work that day. Missing a day of work is detrimental when there is no other income. Overall, she seemed okay and is remaining sober. She reports that she has been clean for five months, we are very proud of her determination in becoming healthier.
As George mentioned in his journal, a young woman and her male friend approached us near the end of our visit. We sensed a problem with the woman as soon as we spotted her about a block away: she appeared to stumble or lean on her friend. It looked as though she had no shoes and the closer she came, the more it looked as though she were struggling to stay upright and be oriented to her surrounding. As is our typical practice, we separated the woman from her counterpart to allow her to speak freely if she wished and for us to determine any safety needs. We found that she was not at all appropriate in orientation or behavior. She appeared to be under the influence of some sort of substance but denied or refused to answer our questions. She was pale, unable to focus her eyes and her unsteady gait caused us concern. She became beligerent and perceived our questions about substances as accusations rather than inquiries. We were unable to provide a pair of shoes for her but did manage to convince her to take a pair of dry socks and sweatpants to change into after getting to the shelter. She was quite obstinate about taking the items but in the end, she did accept them and crossed the street in her stocking feet and wet pants to join her friend. We have worked with this woman before and have seen her at both ends of the spectrum -- she's been alert and oriented and able to communicate effectively and there have been times such as this evening when all we can do is pray for her safety. When someone is under the influence as this woman potentially was, their safety is jeopardized and they become very vulnerable on and off of the street.
Thank you for your interest and support! Please look through the rest of the journal and the needs list. Contact us with questions!
Karen -- Street nurse
May 13, 2016
Our wish for warm weather was put on hold today, the skies were dry but the breeze was very chilly. We handed out gloves and hats as well as hoodies and jackets -- wasn't it eighty degrees just two weeks ago? We had started transitioning the winter-wear out of the van and replacing it with summer-wear but had left a few of the warmer items in the van, just in case. Many visitors were happy to have the items for warmth and the volunteers -- Brian, Larry, Becky, Brent, Pastor Mike, and Michelle -- were happy to be able to be available to fulfill those basic needs and as well as some social needs.
We met a variety of people this evening. One man was passing through town, another had
just been released from the county jail today. One woman commented how she appreciated our being there as a support and that our remembering her from week to week made her feel a little bit better.
Note by Michelle
Friday, May 13th
It was cold and windy Friday. There were a few people at the shelter across the street already when I arrived. Our mom with 3 kids and her boyfriend were there picking up some clothing and reporting on their week. They began working a night shift mid-week and were trying to adjust to the schedule. I asked when they slept, and they said it wasn't easy, especially with the 3 little ones, but they tried to sleep when they got home from work early in the morning. I spoke with the man a few minutes who told me their car had quit completely and they'd had to get a new one. He had previous work contacts who could provide one and was grateful to be able to do so quickly. They'd had a chance to go inner tubing behind a boat earlier in the week, and while the water was cold, the weather was warm and they'd enjoyed the day. They continue to do well working, but are struggling trying to find ways to make ends meet. I appreciate their positivity in the face of so many challenges.
Another man I met had just been released from jail. He'd come to Eau Claire and had gotten arrested shortly after he arrived. After sitting in jail for almost 2 months he was released to the streets and had nothing but the clothes on his back. I found some clothing and told him about meal and food sites, places to hang out during the day and made sure he had Pastor Mike's card as a possible contact if he needed other assistance. He was looking for employment, as he wants to return to MN and needed some money to apply to transfer his court case there.
As we were leaving for the evening, two men approached the van for a bag of food and one told me he wouldn't be able to stay at the shelter for violating one of the shelters rules the previous night. It was expected to be below freezing tonight and he asked if we could find some blankets or other warm clothes to give him. Because of the generous support of this ministry by our community, we were able to find him shelter for the night.
Others had come and gone, greeting us with stories of their day, or with just a smile. Most of our time is spent interacting with people, listening to their stories, and showing compassion and respect. If we can occasionally help someone with clothing or a backpack, or some other small need, that's good, too. Your support in prayer and donations of goods & money are greatly and graciously appreciated by the people we serve.
Note by Michelle
Pastor Mike received a call from one of the young women we've written about recently. She suffers from mental illness and we're continuously concerned about her vulnerability. She is currently staying in a residential treatment center in the area and Pastor Mike and I went to visit her. She appears to be safe and is being cared for, we were relieved that her basic needs are being provided for her. We were fortunate enough to spend time with two staff members of the facility who taught us a great deal about the young woman. It was simultaneously enlightening to learn her history as well as discouraging to realize that there is not a great deal that we can do for her. We can try to encourage safety and compliance with her treatment and that is about all.
Note by Karen - Street Nurse
Friday, May 6, 2016
Our volunteers tonight were Brent, Brian, Pastor Mike and Mariah. The weather was warm and dry, do we dare hope that spring is here to stay?
Soon after our arrival the young mother of three children arrived. She shared her good news as well as her struggles. She remains sober and when I asked her what she does if and when she gets cravings, she responded that she calls her boyfriend who has been sober for three years. She clearly trusts him and finds comfort in his presence. She talked about how her children are not able to attend daycare currently, this is a stressor for her as the children were thriving in that environment. On a positive note, she is working on a regular basis and feels very good about that. Each time I see her I marvel at how far she's come and am so glad we've gotten to meet her and walk along with her on this journey.
The rest of evening was fairly uneventful until we were just getting ready to depart. I think that at the same time, we all noticed a young girl walking on the sidewalk towards us. Pastor Mike said he's seen her earlier in the day several blocks from where we were. Before any of us could greet her or ask any questions, she was asking us if we knew where the bus station was. I offered to walk the few blocks with her to assure her safety. The little girl was agreeable and away we went.
I asked lots of questions to see what I could learn about her. She is eleven years old and is in fifth grade at a local elementary school. She was downtown to swim at the YMCA which is an activity that she does often. Typically, her older brother and sister accompany her but today she came alone. She had gotten turned around when first finding the YMCA and again when she was trying to find the bus station. She had wet hair from her swim and was wearing very lightweight outfit so her wet swimming suit showed through. She had flip-flops on and was carrying a tote bag with a very long strap on it. She said she's taken the bus before but had gotten on the wrong one and it took a very long time to get home and she wanted to avoid that today. I asked about her parents, she lives with her dad and siblings as her mother passed away a few years ago.
We arrived at the bus station and I confirmed with the security guard there that the bus she needed would be arriving soon. He assured me that it was his job to stay in the bus station and watch people, he would keep an eye on her. Her bus was only about ten minutes out, he said. The little girl thanked me and said I should go, that she'd be fine. Very reluctantly, I left. As I walked back to meet up with Brent and Pastor Mike, I thought about the vulnerability of such a young person. There are less than safe people on the street that she could have come into contact with. Part of me wanted to provide my number for her to call in case this happened again but I don't want her parent to think I'm intervening where I shouldn't. We'll definitely be on the lookout for her again as with any other child or adult in need of help.
Please continue to pray for those we serve. We're grateful for your support and interest.