Chippewa Valley Street Ministry Journal - May 31, 2019
The following is a journal written by Barb in 2016. Please read the journal and the notes following it. Thank you for your interest and support!
Tuesday, April 19, 2016
Pastor Mike, Mariah, Samantha, Brent, Jake, Brian and I were out on the street tonight. Thankfully, the rain had let up. We talked with the young mom with 3 small children. She told us that she is trying to take one day at a time and if things start to overwhelm her, she tries to stay active and to keep her mind focused on what is best for her.
Another young woman whom I had not seen in a while came to us tonight looking worn out and despondent. She looked down and away from me, not wanting to make eye contact. She started out by saying her day had not gone well. She had been kicked out of her apartment and thought she was pregnant. She has mental health issues and is a victim of trafficking. Much of what she was telling us did not make a lot of sense. She was in a world of her own making. All we could do was listen and try to convince her to go to a place where we knew she would be off the street and safe. We would take her there, but she did not want to go. We managed to give her some new shoes and socks so that her feet would at least be more comfortable and made her promise to come back to us on Friday night and talk with us. In the meantime, Pastor Mike would look into the situation of her apartment. It is heartbreaking to hear stories such as this. Women on the street are so susceptible to being abused.
We continue ask for your prayers and support of this ministry that is so vital to the homeless.
The journal Barb wrote several years ago is still very much the reality today when witnessing the suffering that many of our homeless friends endure when we encounter them on the street. They live under the continued stress of being alienated from a society that looks down those who live in poverty and are homelessness. We've heard our visitors say that they feel unwelcome in the city. We've also been told by some people that they try not to "look" homeless so that they are more acceptable.
Many of our friends have physical and mental conditions. PTSD is frequent not only among our homeless vets but also among this entire population that lives in poverty. Mental health treatment is at a shortage overall in the community and several of our folks are untreated simply because help isn't available. Medical conditions such as diabetes or cardiac disease add to the stress of being homeless -- finding nutritious but diabetic friendly food, keeping glucometers and supplies available and, if necessary, refrigerating insulin are all challenges that need to be addressed. For any condition, keeping medications safe and available can be a challenge. Often, after medical care is provided, a person will convalesce at the library, the shelter, or other agencies. In other words they suffer, but they suffer in silence which adds to their particular physical or mental condition.
Other stressors include: applying for housing, navigating legal systems, social service systems, maintaining a vehicle, maintaining relationships, keeping track of time and dates if a phone or watch is unavailable, dealing with weather conditions, carrying everything one owns and many others situations.
Women are often abused and there those that are trafficked or have to compromise themselves in order to survive. Women will have sex with men who promise to protect them or use their bodies in order to fain shelter, food, transportation or other necessities. We know that this is not always a desired act but one rather based in survival. We encourage safety whenever we suspect that a woman is in this position.
With the stress that many of the people we serve experience, it is understandable why some of our friends feel like their situation is insurmountable and they become stagnant as far as moving forward. Observing their suffering gives us energy to work harder. Please keep those we serve in your thoughts and prayers.
- Staff - Chippewa Valley Street Ministry
The late James Cone, a renowned Afro-American theologian wrote the following in part:
...By North American standards Jesus could
be considered neither a successful person,
nor could he be considered morally respectable.
He identified with the prostitutes and drunkards,
the unemployed and the poor, not because he felt
sorry for them, but in order to reveal God's judgment
against social and religious structures that oppress
the weak. Jesus was born like the poor, he lived
with them, and on the cross he died like them.
Chippewa Valley Street Ministry, April 26, 2019
While I enjoyed my time talking with our visitors, I also enjoyed watching the other volunteers interact with our guests. Out in service tonight were Chuck, Cat, Marj, Brent, Barb, Brittney, Grace, Pastor Mike and myself.
The street ministry provides people with a place to not only receive a few basic needs but just as importantly, and maybe even more so, time to share their stories. I took some time to simply observe some of these interactions and saw again the importance of being present for our friends. Often the interactions began with a handshake and a smile or ended with a hug. That human contact can mean so much to someone who doesn't often have it. It was heartwarming to see the handshakes, the hugs, the smiles and to hear the chatter and laughter. Additionally, it was rewarding to observe those same actions make a difference to someone who was stressed and frightened of losing the home she is renting due to a recent setback of employment as well as to individuals who are stressed and uneasy about their future.
We're excited to see the positive changes happening in our community: the shelter has a management team that has fresh new ideas; the city came together under the direction of the city/county health department during the dangerous winter weather to provide care to some of our most vulnerable citizens and there is an organized effort to house individuals and change practices to reduce the overall number of homeless in the future. Its a great time to be involved and support the changes!
A couple we care for came with a concern that we attempted to resolve. The man shared that his partner worked part time but they did not have money for her to eat lunch the following day. We came up with several options and each time, the woman refused the help saying that she would be fine and did not want any money or gift cards from us -- she repeatedly said that someone else might need the help. I'm always amazed at the selflessness we see out there. This is a pretty common occurrence, it makes me wonder how I'd react if faced with having little and needing something. Would any of us be as selfless as this woman?
The weather has warmed and we're all grateful for that. We still need donations to provide care for those we serve. Please take a look at our needs list, please donate if you're able. Thank you so much!
Please keep the people we serve in your thoughts and prayers. They appreciate your support!
Karen - Nurse/Social Worker
Over the years, we have been fortunate to have dedicated students earn their UW- Eau Claire service learning hours with us. Many students continue to come even after their hours are completed. Currently, besides working with the adults we serve, the students are spending extra time with children that come by to provide time to read and encourage development of age related skills.
Chippewa Valley Street Ministry Journal May 21, 2019
The following writing was created by Pastor Mike a few years ago to demonstrate just a few of the challenges that people living on the street encounter on a daily basis. Please read and put yourself into the position of being homeless. We believe it takes a great deal of skill, knowledge, perseverance and resilience to survive with the limited resources and safety challenges an individual faces.
So what does it mean to be homeless? Well let me ask for some volunteers, who would like to spend 7 days on the street on your own. Now remember, it is not like camping out. We’ll start by taking away any form of ID that you might have and of course, no cell phone. We'll give you two dollars in cash for spending money and you will have only the clothes on your back and nothing more. We have stripped you of your identity. You basically have to function on the street by yourself. You are not allowed to reach out to family or friends during this time unless you decide to quit the project. We will take you over to Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Lacrosse or maybe Chicago so you won’t run into anyone you know. What is the first issue that you have facing you? Well, if you’re smart it will be about safety. You may ask: how do I navigate the streets without being violated and then how do I find food, and where can I go to the bathroom, where am I going to sleep tonight, safely? The shelters in Chicago are closed for the spring and summer months and some don’t open until November so you will be competing with 15 to 65,000 other homeless that will be looking for a place to lay their head on any given night. What happens if the shelters are full? Ask yourself: how do I protect myself in the shelter, if I’m lucky enough to get one, shelters in big cities can be very dangerous. Who can I trust? On the street, what if the police stop me and I have no ID or money, will I get arrested for vagrancy? Should I stay awake at night and try and find a place to sleep during the day for my safety. What if I get sick, and then what do I do? I’m thirsty, where do I find water? Now if I’m a woman, how do I protect myself? What happens if someone tries to pick me up? If I am seen walking around at night, what if I am mistaken for a prostitute, what if I wander into a neighborhood that is not friendly to me? It may be a rich or poor neighborhood. What if it starts to rain or what if it snows, how do I dry my clothes, how do I keep warm? What if the temperature drops below zero? What if the temperature is 90+? How do I protect myself from the elements? I’m lonely, I’m scared, I’m bored, I’m tired, my body hurts. Where do I find toilet paper? I’m stressed where can I sit down or lay down to take a nap. What if I’m an elderly person, or a young teen? What if I’m an L.G.B.T. teen? Queer teens have the same problems, but they may be more at risk for violence!
Now we come to day number two. I am really tired and I’m hungry, I’m thirsty and scared and really starting to stress. I need to find a bathroom to clean up in. I need an aspirin for my head ache; I need an aspirin for my menstrual cramps, where can I find some tampons, maybe I can just use a rag. While I am in the bathroom of this gas station maybe I should borrow some toilet paper and put it in my pocket for later in the day. I could wash out this Pepsi bottle I found in the garbage and fill it with water and maybe I should take this half eaten hamburger with me also. I wonder if Starbucks has anything for two dollars, ah, I guess I know better then that. Should I dare to go by the local church and will they allow me to come into their service on Sunday looking and smelling like I do? I am so embarrassed and I feel so ashamed. God I miss my family!