Plymouth Street Ministry Journal--Friday, November 25, 2016
We had many volunteers again tonight--Barb, Brent, Brian, Chuck, Jake, Larry, Mike, and I. It was cool, but not too cold--the temperature was in the upper 30s. The vans arrived at 5:30pm and we immediately had visitors.
We served about 27 visitors tonight, offering each a bag containing food, snacks, a large beef stick, juice, a bottle of water, and a pair of hand warmers. We also had a table set up with pastries for people to take. We also distributed a lot of winter clothing--boots, socks, and gloves--and we took names and sizes for more, and at least one backpack. Sharon from First Presbyterian stopped by and brought some bottled water, which is always needed since we hand out so many bottles. Thanks, Sharon!
A few visitors especially caught my attention tonight. The first was TM. I hadn't seen him for a long time--mostly because of my absence, not his. TM is a wonderful guy who has struggled with alcohol for many years. When he stays away from drinking he finds a job fairly quickly, is a hard worker, and is an all-around nice person. He has had repeated troubles with the law--always when he has been drinking--and we are worried that he is running out of chances. Tonight he spent quite a long time talking with Brent, Chuck, and I. TM has a new job and has been doing his work well. He faces two difficulties that he told us about. The first is that he often gets the second shift, and sometimes doesn't get off until 11pm. His work leaves him covered in black grime. His workplace has showers, but if he showers after work he has less time to sleep. The shelter usually doesn't let in people late at night but is good about making exceptions for people with jobs. However, the shelter closes early in the morning and people like TM have to leave without getting a full night's sleep. That's not a problem for one night, but over time that lack of sleep takes a high toll. TM also commented that after second shift his coworkers all want to go visit a bar. That's not welcome news for a man who is constantly battling his temptation to drink. He has applied for housing through some programs and Brent was trying to get him help filling out the forms. Please keep TM in your prayers.
Another visitor that I talked with for a long time was the man that Chuck has been working with. He is a veteran who also has a problem with alcohol. His liver is failing and he needs to visit the hospital every couple of days to have fluids drained from his stomach or abdomen. (I'm still not sure which one.) He had talked with Chuck for a long time, and then talked with me. He was very appreciative of all the services the shelter provides. He was thankful for the meal, the television, the showers, and the laundry facilities. He said that he tries to help by cleaning out the men's room every morning. He also was in quite a bit of discomfort and was again in need of having more fluid drained. Despite his pains, however, he said that he had a good thanksgiving. He described a wonderful selection of foods at the thanksgiving meal served by Bethesda Church. He too, has applied for housing, in his case through the VA. Most of the veteran's housing nearby, however, can't handle him because of his liver condition. (I'm not sure if it's his condition or if it's his need of regular transportation to and from the hospital.)
I spotted another man from far away. He approached us very slowly using a walker. None of us were familiar with him. He seemed fairly young--maybe in his mid 40s--and introduced himself. We offered him a bag of food and he gratefully accepted. He said he hadn't eaten yet today. He didn't seem interested in talking to us long, however, and slowly move along.
A fourth visitor caught my attention with a simple comment. When asked how he was, he replied: "Not good. I'm homeless again." He took a bag and left without another word.
Please pray for, and care for, the poor.
Plymouth Street Ministry Journal--Friday, November 18, 2016
For the last several Friday evenings I have been very busy with work and family commitments, and, as a result, haven't been out helping with the street ministry. I finally had a free Friday evening tonight and arrived at the municipal parking lot early, at about 5:20. Soon others arrived, and the vans pulled in at 5:30. Mike was worried we wouldn't have many volunteers, but we had a total of nine: Barb, Brent, Brian, Chuck, Jake, Kayla, Mariah, Mike, and I were all there.
When I arrived it was 38 degrees with a light rain. The wind was from the north and was wicked--the flags were out straight and the flagpole ropes were clanging, the street signs were flopping back and forth, Chuck's ball cap blew off his head in a strong gust, and, even huddled between the two closely parked vans, there was no escaping its chill. The light rain turned into a wind-driven icy mist, and, by the time I drove home, the temperature had dropped to 33 with wind-whipped snow flurries. The coming of winter weather brought requests for gloves and hats, which we supplied, and winter boots, for which we took names and sizes. We will try to bring properly sized pairs on a future Tuesday or Friday. One homeless man commented that he had tried all of the thrift shops--he couldn't afford new--but none had winter boots available that would fit him.
With winter approaching and with the switch back to standard time, it was very dark already at 5:30. I think street ministry is harder in winter not just because of the cold, but also because of the darkness. It is hard to see the faces of those we serve, and therefore harder to make a human connection. Despite this, Chuck did very well. He has been helping a man with a severe alcohol problem. The man's liver is failing, and has needed to go to the hospital numerous times in the last few days to have fluid removed from his stomach. (I'm not sure if I have the details quite right, so if this doesn't make sense medically, I probably misheard.) His most recent trip had been earlier today, and Chuck had driven him there. The man is a veteran and someone in the VA was trying to find him housing, but neither he nor Chuck were able to reach the VA person today. The man will be spending the night in the shelter--ill and in pain. Tonight Chuck talked with him for a long time--they sat in a car to keep the man out of the cold.
We served a total of about 25 people tonight, providing most with a bag of food, water, and juice. To others we provided winter clothing items and we gave out at least one backpack. The shelter opened early (a big thank you to whoever was running the shelter tonight!) to let homeless folks get out of the cold. We wrapped up early and I left at a little after 6:50.
Please pray for, and care for, the poor.