Chippewa Valley Street Ministry -- Wednesday October 25, 2017
I have volunteered with the street ministry for several years and have heard many stories from the people we serve. I've heard some people report that they stay outside at night and I always wondered how they stayed safe, out of eyesight of the general public and where they slept. This past week I rode along with Pastor Mike and Brent while they did an area check looking for people who might need some resources or to just check on their safety.
While we didn't find many people that night, that doesn't mean that they weren't out there: they were just not where we looked or were hidden well. We did find one gentleman and the few minutes we spent with him was as eye-opening for me as was the very first night I volunteered three years ago. I took as much in as possible and listened to Pastor Mike and Brent talk to him. For his privacy and safety, I won't share his specific location in case he opts to lay there other nights. He had with him what I suspect was most of what he owns plus a sleeping bag that we'd given him awhile back. He had been given some food by someone passing by and was saving that for later. He reported that he stays at the local shelter periodically but he is very uncomfortable with the noise and amount of people that are routinely there. The man told us that he usually tried to stay awake as long as possible and would maybe talk to people passing by to be friendly. He said that typically, no one bothers him. Pastor Mike and Brent had some laughs with the man, they talked about laying low and being safe. After a few minutes we left him with a bag of food, some water and some hand-warmers. Once we were in the van, I watched him settle into his sleeping bag on the cold cement. I have no idea how long he stays in one spot or if he's left alone during the night.
The following pictures are from area checks that Pastor Mike and Brent have done in the last few weeks.
My take-away from the night was simplistic: this is wrong. Our society should have better options for an individual to lay their head than at a storefront entrance. The street ministry knows of several individuals who cannot, for various reasons, stay at the shelter any longer. Many are elderly and several have significant mental health concerns. We truly care for these people and are even more concerned for them now that its getting colder. I have no viable answers, I have only hopes and dreams that may or may not be practical. Hearing the stories versus seeing them in real time is very different.
Please continue to pray for and support the individuals the street ministry cares for. Without your backing and encouragement, we truly cannot do our work. Someone reading these journals and the needs lists donated the sleeping bag that this individual had. The coat he had and the gloves we provided that night were donated as were the hand-warmers. I cannot stress enough the importance of your gifts. We are very grateful and blessed to have you working with us.
-Karen - Street Nurse/Social Worker