Chippewa Valley Street Ministry Journal Sunday, May 24, 2020

It was a warm and sticky evening as we drove through Eau Claire, keeping our eyes out for our friends in need to provide water, food, or other essential items as well as a comforting ear or to share a laugh. At a local park we stopped to talk to several people and returned later with food and water for them.  We fed approximately ten people, this number fluctuates daily but has been as large as 20.  Without the stay-at-home order in effect, the city was buzzing with activity.  We provided sunscreen to a few people and learned quickly that the flying insects, particularly gnats, were quite bothersome. We didn’t have any insect repellent with us but will look for small cans or bottles to provide.

Note: all pictures taken with permission.

United in friendship

 

 

Karen and guest sharing a conversation

 

One gentleman said he needed to file his taxes but did not know how to use a computer and did not know where to get a form. We asked how, generally, he was and if he was getting enough to eat.  He responded that he experiences heartburn with many foods and is “getting by” on granola bars which have not exacerbated the heartburn.  We offered to get him some food which was somewhat bland, and he politely declined. He denies any medical problems in his past and agreed that perhaps stress and anxiety were contributing to his discomfort. He has only been in the area for a short time and came to this city in hopes that he would find an efficiency apartment that was furnished.  He has not had success finding anything yet. He had minimal information to file for his taxes so we made arrangements to meet with him two days later and bring a laptop so that we could assist him with his tax filing.

The next person we spoke with was very cheerful and animated.  He shared that he opts to sleep away from others and finds various areas to safely seclude himself for the night. He and the previously mentioned gentleman have formed a friendship. It appears that this man, who has been without permanent shelter for a very long time, looks out for the other man. He talked about a life-long history with mental illness and how he was in the process of setting up counseling.  It was difficult to not feel the hope and excitement that he was emitting. He was grateful for the company and of the food.

After visiting with a few more people, we provided umbrellas to those who wanted them as the sky darkened and the wind picked up. One man who had distanced himself from us previously now cautiously approached and asked who we were and if we were connected with the police.  We explained who we were and our purpose and asked if he needed anything.  He said he needed water and nothing else. We gave him two bottles of water and encouraged him to check back with us when he sees us.

We’d been told that there were several people living in an encampment along the river. We went in search of that and did find a few people but did not breach their privacy.  On our way back to the vehicle, we checked on a man who lives with his dogs in a wooded area and passed another man who we shared a quick conversation with.  I had not had the opportunity to explore this part of Eau Claire before and took the sights and sounds in: the vegetation was lush green, the birds were singing, spring wildflowers were in bloom and in the middle of it all, were people living with minimal supplies and nearly blending into the background.

We hear many of the people we work with talk about the stress they feel with the Covid restrictions. Much of the concern is related to feeling isolated and the lack of human contact. Many of us have tried to decrease our time in the community to keep ourselves and our fellow community members healthy.  The people we talk with have no comforts of home to make the time alone more comfortable or manageable. Those with mental illnesses have reported that their symptoms have increased simply because they have too much alone time and not enough human engagement to stay connected to real time, dates, etc. Listening to them describe their experiences sounded much like inmates at a jail who spent time in isolation: every day is the same, few people to talk to, nothing to keep busy to pass the time except their minds and after a while, a person’s mind can get the best of them.  While the state order has been lifted, many businesses are still closed and our friends typically frequent those places on a regular basis.  Some people opt to not stay at the shelter due to policies that are put in place for the safety and well-being of all who stay there, others have personal reasons for staying out in the elements.  We do not judge them for their decisions and our mission is to help keep them as safe as possible.

The street ministry continues to purchase and provide meals for at least a dozen people a day, typically at night.  We believe that no one should go hungry and do what we can to prevent this.  Please consider a financial donation to contribute to our work of keeping people fed, clothed and safe. The ministry operates only on contributions from generous donors such as you.  We greatly appreciate your support.

As we returned to the church, it started to rain and we talked about the people we’d visited with. Please keep them and all others who live without permanent homes in your thoughts and prayers.

 

Karen - Social Work/Nurse - Former County Jail Nurse

Rest In Peace Brother George

 Chippewa Valley Street Ministry Journal  May 17, 2020

 

Pastor Mike and I canvassed the city for our sisters and brothers  in need today.  The weather wasn’t all that cool but the rain was light and steady, making being outside rather unpleasant.  Still, the rain is a necessity and brings new life to our world.

 

The first person we talked with was a man that I’d estimate to be in his early sixties.  He had a very gentle smile and his skin appeared to have been weathered from being outdoors. He didn’t want much, a razor was all.  We hadn’t talked to him before and asked if he needed clothing, umbrellas, shoes, etc. We offered him a sleeping bag after he said that he has been sleeping outdoors  As we listened to the man decline all of our offers, we noted how incredibly polite he was.  When Pastor Mike offered food, he graciously accepted it. We left him as he sat down and ate, we’ll be on the lookout for him during our nightly safety check.

Another man that we saw was rinsing out a cup in a puddle collecting on the ground from rain coming off of a roof.  Typically this man is very social and never misses an opportunity for a conversation. Today he was completely opposite and kept his distance from us. 

 

We’ve spoken with many blue collar workers deemed as “essential” and have been required to be at work during the Covid-19 pandemic.  Some were students, some are workers with families. Many of them have had work hours decreased and they are concerned how they’ll make ends meet.  They need to share their stories and feel that they aren’t forgotten.

 

We’re sharing a few photos that we’ve taken during the week.  Pictures are so important, they often say much more than our words do.  Please keep our brothers and sisters living on the street as well as the working poor in your hearts, thoughts and prayers.

 

The street ministry continues to purchase and provide meals for at least a dozen people a day, typically at night.  We believe that no one should go hungry and do what we can to prevent this.  Please consider a financial donation to contribute to our work of keeping people fed, clothed and safe. The ministry operates only on contributions from generous donors such as you.  We greatly appreciate your support.

 

 

 

Homelessness can often time be lonely and isolating.

 

 

Sleep maybe the only peace our friends experience while homeless.

 

 

A homeless woman sleeping on a downtown bench.

 

   - Karen - Social Worker, Street Nurse 

Chippewa Valley Street Ministry Journal, May 3, 2020

Pastor Mike and I went out to check on our friends living on the street. The area, especially the parks, were busy with people coming out to enjoy the weather and other’s company.  The stay at home order has taken a toll on us as a nation and its understandable that the warmer weather is bringing people out.  Please continue to be cautious and respectful of the situation.

 

 

Karen, CVSM volunteer, prepared to go out on the street.

 

Our first encounter was with a married couple.  They had attempted to stay at the shelter but for one reason or another that had not worked out for them and they were now without shelter.  The woman had clearly been out in the sun: her skin was bright pink, it appeared nearly burned.  The man was not as pink or red but his skin tone suggested that he, too, had been in the sun for an extended amount of time.  We provided them with sandwiches and asked if they needed sunscreen. They were very grateful and asked if we had any personal cloths/wipes.  Without the shelter and other usual locations being open, staying clean is made a challenge. One individual has been resourceful and gone to truck stops to use their showers however that requires money which is not always available. Lack of hygiene in combination with lack of good nutrition and fatigue can only lead to health problems.  If someone already has a per-existing condition, these challenges only make the condition worse.

The next person we spoke with was a man who was trying to coordinate his time to meet us at a local park so that we could deliver some items that he needed.  His phone did not have minutes on it and he needed to be able to use Wi-Fi to communicate with us, a challenge even in non-Covid times. 

The isolation felt by those we serve is compounded by changes created by Covid restrictions. Mental health illnesses have been exacerbated. Hope has decreased and loneliness has increased. While the restrictions are necessary, it is easy to see why people put themselves at risk in order to feel that they belong to someone or somewhere.

We spoke with a man that was experiencing a separation from his wife and children and was clearly upset about the lack of communication he’d had with them and his want to have them with him.  We talked at length but there seems to be few options for him.  As much as we discussed the situation, there are no easy answers.  We traded phone numbers and will be available to support him as able.  

The street ministry has been feeding approximately 12 people per day for about two months. We want to ensure that they have at least one meal a day and have access to nutritious food.  If a person misses a meal at the Community Table, they will be without food.  Whether the food is purchased or donated, we ensure that meals are provided.

 

 

Chippewa Valley Street Ministry van.

 

 

CVSM Street Ministry van.  We provide multiple items but most

importantly, we provide compassion to those in need.

 

The street ministry is collaborating with the local shelters to help provide clothing and other essentials to their guests, both adult and children. We have been blessed and want to help care for all in need.  Our needs list will reflect our needs for people on the street as well as those in a shelter who we can help. On behalf of all, thank you! 

We’re grateful for the opportunity to have met several of you who have donated goods and foods! Please contact us if you have donations, we’ll arrange a pick up or a place to meet.  Thank you so much for your support in caring for our brothers and sisters in need.

 

Karen

Social Worker/Street Nurse

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