Chippewa Valley Street Ministry Journal, May-31-2023
It is hot out. There is limited access to bathrooms and water for our brothers and sisters who are without permanent shelter. They have limited places to go where they aren't asked to leave or relocate their positions and possessions. By the time we see them in the evening, many people are worn out, hungry and very thirsty. We always bring 5-6 coolers of water and Gatorade and have left our site with nearly empty coolers several times. We're seeing sunburns and providing sun lotion/block; we're providing shorts, T-shirts and shoes each time we go out. On average, we interact with 45-50 people each outing.
The more times we go out, the more it feels like we (the community as a whole) are not doing enough to address the cause of homelessness for so many of the people. Certainly, there are a multitude of causes of homelessness but one main factor is poverty. We are a society of haves and have-nots and in our view, the have-nots population is growing faster than its counterpart. What can be done to end the poverty so many individuals and families are experiencing? What can be done to assure everyone of receiving basic human rights? Until there is equity within the community, there will not be an end to homelessness. If poverty continues at the current rate, there will not be an end to homelessness. There isn't a downside to eliminating poverty. While poverty is an enormous problem to tackle, it would be more cost effective for a community to have minimal to no homelessness.
We've been contacted by two separate families in the last two days for help as they have been or will be evicted after falling on hard times and not being able to maintain housing. These are people with education and jobs that for one reason or another have lost a basic need. We're not set up to provide motel vouchers or housing. We help how we can and make suggestions on agencies that might be able to help them.
A man came to our table on Monday and gladly accepted the food and drink that we provided. He didn't look well. He proceeded to walk a few feet from us and vomited onto the street. We offered him a chair in the shade of the van and began listening to his story. He hadn't eaten that day and had had one bottle of water. It was very warm that day and he needed additional hydration. Regardless of the cause of him not feeling well, he reminded us that being homeless and feeling poorly is not a good combination. Self-care for oneself when ill is difficult, if not impossible, when your effort to simply survive takes precedent.
We are leaving water in various parts of the city on hot days to help our friends with hydration.
Poverty and homelessness are community-owned problems; it will take the entire community to address and treat the situations. We believe that all people deserve to have access to basic human rights and will continue to work towards this. Please continue to keep the people served by the street ministry and those living in poverty in your thoughts. Thank you for your support.
Chippewa Valley Street Ministry volunteers
Chippewa Valley Street Ministry, May 11, 2023
The weather has finally warmed up and our brothers and sisters on the street are grateful. We've been serving about 45-50 people each time we're out, each person having their own challenges and stories to tell. We're often asked for extra water or Gatorade as often our guests don't have easy access to this during the day.
When there are conversations about the homeless, often the population is generalized as a single unit which implies that all members have the same needs, same histories, same wants. This is not a one-size-fits-all population and all people will not benefit from one service. Not all want or are ready for housing; not all want or need substance treatment. Some have medical challenges and others have mental health challenges. Some are veterans and may need or qualify for certain services. Some have trauma and are triggered by stimuli that don't affect others. We are seeing more women and even within one gender there are differences: victims of violence, mothers, sex workers. We work with LGBTQ and we know they face altogether different challenges. There are runaways and youth that have been told to leave their homes. Professionals and trade workers and the list can go on and on.
Guests waiting to go to the shelter. Each person has a unique story and unique needs.
The bond between all of these groups is that the majority of people need their service urgently. Waiting to get through the barriers of a system only adds to their problems. For our elderly who have mobility problems, the waiting leaves them vulnerable for too long. For the addict that wants treatment and has to wait, it's a missed opportunity for change. For the abused woman who can't find safety, she is left to independently fend for her safety for another day. Our point is that while there are services in the community and efforts to make change, the people that need those services may not be able to wait. Help is needed now.
Guests waiting to cross the street to the shelter. While there are many different needs,
there is community and support with one another.
One of our friends that we've served for several years now has housing. We began to celebrate the event and share our joy with him when he said that it had been only a few days and he wasn't sure he wanted it to work out. In fact, he'd thought about leaving. We asked why and he explained that while he'd wanted a place to call home, he had not considered that he'd be alone and how quiet it would be. He has, for years, been with peers and had his needs met at one agency or another. He didn't have the "comforts" of home: TV, radio, etc. but was working on getting these items to create some noise. He said that he was spending as much time during the day with his friends and continuing his routines that he had prior to obtaining his apartment just to feel like he belonged somewhere. There will be case management involved for him but between those visits, he is concerned about loneliness.
Please continue to support our work and the people we work with. Help others learn that the unhoused are not a one-size-fits all population, each person is unique.
Be well, be safe. Blessings to all.