Chippewa Valley Street Ministry - Tuesday, May 30, 2017
It was somewhat cool this evening, nothing severe but enough to not be sure what to wear to be comfortable. Most of us have the luxury of having choices of clothing that we can choose from and leave the rest in our closets. Most of our friends have all of their belongings with them and they have to use what's on hand whether it is effective or not. We had several volunteers tonight that served our friends in need: Barb, Pastor Mike, Brent, Chuck, Allison, and myself.
We served 49 people tonight, the most since last summer. We never know exactly how many people to expect, we bring enough food bags for fifty people. Many of the people were new to us, although a few friends that we've known for quite some time that came by to visit.
When we first arrived there were two gentlemen waiting for us. Both are staying at a local shelter that has programs that focus on addiction and recovery. One of the men in his fifties and noted that he has not felt so clean and generally more aware of his life, his person and other people. We hope that he will be successful in the program.
The woman we've been focusing on in our writings was there, she has a significant mental health issue that concerns us in terms of her safety. She again showed us her photos and at one point looked up in the sky to alert us that the plane flying overhead was actually a military bomber. She stayed a long while, talking and teaching us about her photography skills. Pastor Mike alerted her to the time, it was nearly 7pm and she needed to get across the street to the shelter to secure her bed for the night.
Another young woman came to us, I remember her as a former patient of mine but she did not know me. She shared her story and needed some clothing, we did not have her particular size but will have them at our next visit. She spoke of having children but it was unclear where they were at.
Over the last few weeks we've observed a gentleman at the shelter who seems to distance himself from everyone and he appears to never change his clothing. From our vantage point he appears disheveled and possibly not in good health. He has never come over to visit us so we don't know anything about him, some of our friends have encouraged him to cross the street to us but so far, he has not done so.
A woman that we've kept an eye on for many months has reached her limit of stays at the shelter. She has applied for housing but had not heard anything as of yet, I pray she'll find an apartment and be safe. While housing is often our main goal for our friends, once someone has been on the street for a long while the adjustment to having a home is a challenge. For some people it has been months or years since they have needed to prepare their own meals, do housework, or simply be alone. We try to keep in contact to continue our support through the transition and beyond as we acknowledge the potential difficulty in the change.
Please take a look at the needs list, we are in great need of underwear, both men's and women's. And as always, thank you for your interest and support of the ministry and the people we serve.
-Karen - street nurse - social worker
Chippewa Valley Street Ministry Journal - Friday, May 26, 2017
Tonight was my first night out with the Street Ministry in two months. When I was last out, in late March, it was in the 30s and windy; today it was in the low 70s, sunny, and beautiful. There were nine of us present: Brent, Brian, Chuck, Cindy, Karen, Larry, Michelle, Pastor Mike, and me. The vans arrived a bit before 5:40, and, as we were discussing those we might meet who have special needs, Michelle noticed a person lying on the ground a block away, in front of an auto repair shop. Michelle and I walked over to see what was up. A woman, one of our regulars who stays at the shelter, had fallen. She uses a wheeled walker and had somehow fallen over backward and hit her head badly. Her worried daughter was with her, as were a bystander who had stopped and someone from the auto repair shop. They had already called an ambulance. The woman was conscious and holding a cold drink bottle on the back of her head but was in pain. She said it was the worst fall she had ever taken. The frame of her walker was seriously bent. The ambulance arrived shortly after we did and took her to the hospital, and we walked back to the parking lot where the Street Ministry vans were.
I spent quite a while talking with a man who had lost his housing. He has been in the shelter for just a few days, and spends much of his time in the senior center. He said he was on a list for low income housing and gets social security, so he, and we, are hoping he won't be homeless for long.
A familiar woman stopped by. She is still quite young, but already has had a very tough life--she was trafficked as a child, is struggling to keep off drugs, and is trying to be a positive presence in her children's lives. (She does not have custody of her own children.) Cindy, Karen, and Michelle talked with her for quite a while.
The three women volunteers also spent a long time talking with a different woman who has many delusional ideas. (It was a busy evening for them--we try to have women volunteers talk with homeless women whenever possible.) The mentally ill homeless are very difficult to help, and we wish we could do more. I hope that listening and showing compassion helps them some, because often it seems that there is little else we, or anyone else, can do. We try to help them stay safe and steer them toward whatever mental health care is available, but the problem is vast and resources are too scarce.
Many of our visitors just stopped briefly, and most accepted a bag of with some food, juice, water, and snacks. A few stayed and talked--one was a woman with an 8-month-old in a stroller. One of the visitors was a man who had requested a pair of denim shorts on Tuesday, and we had them for him tonight.
Another woman talked with Michelle for many minutes. She was in tears at times. Her father is a deceased veteran and her mother was now in a nursing home. She was sad that she couldn't get to her father's grave to place flowers, which she did every Memorial Day, but was even more upset about her mother, who isn't doing well. She said that Monday would be the first time in many years that she would not watch the Memorial Day parade with her. Her mother's name is Adeline, and she requested prayers for her, so I will also pass this request on to whoever reads this journal entry.
One of our last visitors brought good news. His job was going well and he signed a lease and will have housing starting early next month! It is only a room in a shared house, but he said it was clean and nice and he was smiling when he talked about it. He is doing well enough to also take a bus ride up north to visit with his father this weekend, and was looking forward to going fishing with him.
We estimate that we served 33 people tonight. We left a few minutes after 7.
Please pray for, and care for, the poor.
CVSM Journal, May 23, 2017
Each time we're on the street we start our service with a meeting to update each other on our previous visit or to provide new information about the people we serve. It is important to us to keep up on their situations to provide a continuity of care. After our meeting we were immediately busy and by the end of our visit, approximately 30 people had stopped by.
Our volunteers were positioned around our vans talking with our friends. I enjoyed the hum of the conversations and would occasionally hear a burst of laughter or a tone of frustration or sadness. I am so happy to be a part of an organization that is available to our friends in need. I believe that our biggest service is simply being there, providing the much needed hug or handshake. Its not unusual for a person to decline any of the goods we provide and instead spend much of the evening just talking.
At the end of our service we again met with the woman that I've become increasingly concerned about. She has previously talked about being the daughter of a former First Lady as well as reporting that Air Force One has been in Eau Claire twice recently. Today she shared pictures she'd taken with her phone while she walked around the community. Many of the images were of street numbers or building numbers and she'd taken those images as a Morse code for a relative. She had multiple pictures of electric meters outside of buildings or pipes on the buildings. She had snapped photos of painted signs on the road and asked parents for permission to photograph their children. While some may find her topics mundane, she has a special sense of light and and poses to make her photos interesting. She reports taking some college level photography courses but because of her other grandiose ideas, its somewhat difficult to believe what she tells us. Its real to her, that's important, as she gains a comfort from thinking about those days. My concerns are that someone will take advantage of her mental status and take advantage of her either physically, mentally, or financially. She is somewhat guarded when we ask too many questions, its better to let her lead the conversations.
We are seeing a large number of new people coming by, many of them seem to have some mental health issues. We will be available to all to support and care with love and respect. Keep our brothers and sisters in your thoughts and prayers.
-Karen -- Street nurse, Social Worker
With permission from one of the fire victims, we are posting this link. Additional photos will be added in a separate post.
The Street Ministry was contacted for assistance with short term shelter for a number of people affected by this tragedy. Once again, your donations make these good works possible. We truly need your financial gifts to help people in these situations.
On behalf of the victims, THANK YOU for your generosity.
CVSM Journal, May 19, 2017
After so much rain in the area, we enjoyed the dry day. While we go out in the rain, snow, bitter cold and extreme heat, the mild temperatures are appreciated. Volunteers tonight were Larry, Pastor Mike, Barb, Brian, Jake and myself. We served around 23 people, most took the bags containing food and water, others requested clothing, as well.
I had been hoping to see a man that we've been seeing somewhat regularly. At his last visit, his arm was red and swollen. While we can't treat him, we can encourage and/or assist him in getting medical care. He did not appear and all we can do is hope and pray for his well-being.
One of our long time friends happily reported that he has been employed at a local fast food restaurant for over 1 year. We are so very proud and happy for him. He has a home but lives a challenged life, he has purchased a different vehicle during these last 12 months and the pride and excitement in his accomplishment is evident on his face.
We were visited by a woman and her infant daughter. The young mother had been without permanent shelter approximately a year ago and moved in with one of her parents. She now has an infant that appeared happy and healthy. We've noted in other journals that our friends become an extension of our family as we become theirs. Its not uncommon that people we have served return to share their successes with us. Its always a joy to see them and know that we had a small part in their progression.
Barb and I met with a women who struggles with mental health problems. She excitedly told us that she had seen Air Force One land in Eau Claire and that there had been bomber planes flying around much of the day. I pondered after she left about where she might go during the day. The library? Other agencies? I think its safe to say that generally, the general public is not comfortable around persons displaying unusual or unexpected behavior. I wondered if she spoke with others and they returned the conversation or is she isolated and lonely?
Please take a peek at our needs list and donate if you are able. Keep our brothers and sisters in need in your prayers and, as always, thank you so much for your support. We're in this together!
Chippewa Valley Street Ministry Journal, May 12, 2017
We enjoyed the beautiful weather this evening. Volunteers tonight were Pastor Mike, Denise, Jaxson, Chuck, Larry, Brent, Brian and myself. We served around 30 people, many asking for additional water which we happily provide. Dehydration is a ever-present concern in all seasons.
We spoke at length with a woman new to us. She has spent the last five months or so in a program to address homelessness and addictions. She was unhappy with the curriculum as well as the overall program and left the facility, she is now staying at the local shelter and is trying to prioritize her next steps. She has a lengthy job history and is diligently looking for work. After losing her tax refund to a stranger, she has no money whatsoever. She had taken advantage of King's Closet for free clothing and we provided some needed items as well. She was given a backpack -- the first she said she'd ever owned -- and saw it not so much as welcome necessity but almost a label of where she had been and where she was.
I thoroughly enjoy talking to and listening to the people we serve. Their perceptions of their lives (such as with the backpack as note above) are so very different than my own perceptions, I am educated and made aware of my own privileges each time I am out there. The experiences and difficulties living with addictions and / or mental illnesses are much more difficult than I had previously known. Often I wonder what came first: did the mental illness cause the addiction to become more prevalent or did the addiction uncover a mental illness? Which should be treated first and can either be treated successfully while a person is in need of a stable home? These are just a couple of questions that I wonder about, what do you t think? I love to hear from you so feel free to reply to this and any other journal any of us put out.
Thank you, as always, for your interest and support of the Chippewa Valley Street Ministry. The more we grow, the more we can do. Please continue to think about and pray for the people we serve. Together we'll do great things!
-Karen -- street nurse, social worker
Notes from Barb for May 9, 2017
It was a busy night on the street and also a very difficult one when we were informed of a young girl that was sleeping on a bench outside of Sojourners. Samantha and I went over to talk with her. She told us that she had run away from a group home. She said that she was 18, but had no identification on her. She had been given a ride to Eau Claire from a friend. She was cold, hungry and exhausted. We were able to talk her into coming across the street with us. She did not really want to go back to the group home, but I think she realized that this was the best thing for her and she said she wanted to finish school. She gave us the number to call. Samantha contacted the home and they said they would come and get her. We knew it would not be safe for her to be on the street for even one night. I left to get her some food and Pastor Mike and I waited with her until she was picked up.
I also talked briefly with a woman that has found permanent housing. She had been ill, but was doing better.
Another woman talked about things going well for her. She loves her new cleaning job and actually has some money saved up. She would eventually like to go back to Minnesota and work again at her trained profession of nursing
Notes from Samantha from Tuesday, May 9, 2017
We met a girl tonight who stated she was a run away from a group home in northwestern Wisconsin. She told Barb and I that she had left a few days ago after school, walked for awhile, and then got a ride from her friend to Eau Claire. The girl told us that she left the group home because she was getting in fights with the other residents. She had said that she partied for awhile and then got dropped off downtown and ended up at the Sojourner House. She let us know that she was a senior in high school and had already missed a few days of school, and was ready to go back to the group home and to school. She gave me the name and number of her group home and I called them and let her know where she was and that she would like to come back. We had the girl come back across the street with us, we gave her a warm sweatshirt, and let her sleep in the van for awhile as she was exhausted. Barb went and picked up some food for her, as well. The worker at the group home called me back and said that they would be able to pick her up around 8:30-9pm.
We also a met a woman tonight who said she's been on the street for a few days. She was staying with a friend and her boyfriend but it wasn't working out . Someone also drained her bank account, but the bank is working in crediting her money back but it will be a few days. She has been working with a local agency to get housing and is receiving disability due to a bad knee. She was in very good spirits and was very thankful for the hygiene kit, T-shirts, and sweatshirt that we gave her. She said that she feels safe staying at the shelter and is aware of the different resources in the area, as she was born and raised in Eau Claire. She said that she is working on staying strong, getting back on her feet, and getting guardianship of her mother.
-Sam, Social work graduate.
Notes from Barb for May 2, 2017
It was so nice to have comfortable weather on the street tonight. Pastor Mike, Brent, Jake, Graham, Mariah, Samantha and I were out.
Samantha and I walked to the corner to where one of our regular visitors was sitting. We asked about housing and she had seen an apartment and felt hopeful in getting this place. She was able to do laundry today and had been to a local agency to spend time with peers. Samantha gave her a much needed food card from Pastor Mike. She came back across the street with us to thank him.
Another regular friend was so excited to tell me that she had a cleaning job a local business. Her significant is doing some yard work and they both will be cleaning college apartments. They have been going to AA and are very high on church attendance. They live from day to day. I love it when they are able to tell me it has been a good day.
A 61 year old man stated he had not been on the street long. He is looking for work. He has done farm and carpentry work. He seemed positive and good natured.
I talked briefly with a woman that is fairly new to us. She badly needed shoes the last time we talked with her. She had a a pair of boots that were hers that had apparently been at a friend's and Pastor Mike gave her a pair of shoes that we had found for her. The woman seems to be dealing with some type of mental illness, she has unrealistic thoughts and concerns. She was with a man and did not stay long to talk.
A young couple stopped at the table and I was able to talk with her. I asked her name and if she needed anything. We wrote down a list of clothing and were able to give her a backpack and a bag of toiletries.
Another young couple stopped and received bags from us. We tried to get her separated from the guy she was with so that we could talk with her. She was definitely upset and started crying, but would not stay.
We are seeing a lot of new faces on the street at every age. Homelessness does not discriminate.
Chippewa Valley Street Ministry Journal, April 25 2017
Tuesday afternoon and night was the type of weather that makes it very difficult being without permanent shelter. There was a cold rain the entire time we were at the parking lot across from the shelter. I was thankful that I was only out in it for only a little while, I can only imagine how hard it must be for our friends that have to be out in that weather for a lot longer. We were handing out quite a few umbrellas and rain ponchos - we are now running low on those so if anyone has any we sure would appreciate getting some to hand out. Since the weather was miserable not too many people hung out to visit and talk, but the ones that did stop were very grateful for the snacks and water (and rain gear!). It’s days like this that I know it would be easier to just stay in my warm and dry house, but when I see the gratitude from our friends downtown and hear the “Thank you” from the people we serve, I know that God has put us in the right place and that we are making a difference. Thank you so much, Street Ministry volunteers, for coming out on rough days and serving together as we help our brothers and sisters in need. Please keep the large population of people who are in need of shelter in the Chippewa Valley in your thoughts and prayers!