Chippewa Valley Street Ministry Journal Special Edition: A Journey into Poverty October 30, 2019
It's home: a small one room cabin with a set of bunk-beds with bare mattresses, a double bed and a fabric covered rocking chair. In the corner is a refrigerator and on the counter is a microwave. There's litter on the floor and a few sparse pictures on the wall. There's a pile of firewood on one side of the room to burn in the small wood-stove and a shelf lined with books and medicine bottles on the other side of the room. There are stacks of documents on the counter that look like they've been untouched for quite some time. There is electricity to the structure and a couple of lights on but even if the lights were brighter, the scene is dismal. There are people in this room: Pastor Mike, Martha, Tom, Alisa, Bailey and myself as well as the family that lives in this cabin: a husband and wife and their three children, all who are in their teens. There is lack of seating and Martha, Alisa and I sit on the floor, listening respectfully to the woman as she tells their story. What is missing is water: water to bathe in. Water to cook meals with and wash dishes with. There is no toilet, no shower, no usable sink. This is in our county, this shouldn't be.
This family has experienced trauma from the time the parents were children to living in their current situation. It doesn't have to be like this: just a few years ago, they purchased the current property and had a home built but due to negligent contractors, a twist of fate with mental health symptoms, changes in income and challenges that few of us can imagine, the home has not been completed and does not have a functional well or septic -- both are present but have not had the final connections necessary to be usable. There is a list of minor issues from a building inspector that need to be addressed, none of which seems too burdensome. Because of the lack of utilities, the home has been deemed uninhabitable. The cabin that the family stays in is literally less than 50 feet from the empty house. They've lived in the cabin for 13 months.
The street ministry will be working with the family to assist in getting resources in order for them to live in the house so there are bedrooms, a bathroom, a kitchen and other amenities that we take for granted such as water. We would certainly appreciate your support with services, financial or other donations to help this family.
What we want to make sure is known is that this family does have one thing that not all families have: love and support of one another. The parents are fiercely protective of their children. The children are remarkably well-adjusted to their situation. It was a privilege to have met with them and we look forward to working with them.
Pictures used with permission
Karen Social Worker/Street Nurse
Chippewa Valley Street Ministry Journal October 3, 2019
"Random Thoughts and Reflections"
We have a serious problem here in the Chippewa Valley that can no longer be overlooked and it is called “Poverty”. Poverty kills and destroys lives and those living in poverty need to know that there is hope. If we don't expose this problem for what it is and have serious public dialog and action, those affected will suffer in silence. Southern Chippewa and Eau Clarie county are listed as the 2nd poorest counties in Wisconsin. A little under 50% of the population locally live paycheck to paycheck.
Amanda from Feed My People wrote in our September 26th street ministry journal the following, in part:
In Eau Claire County, according to United Way’s 2018 Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed (ALICE) Report, 28% of residents (on top of the 14% in poverty) cannot afford a basic household budget of food, housing, childcare, transportation and healthcare. 1 in 5 of our children face food insecurity in their daily lives and the elderly are the fastest growing population visiting food pantries. Healthy food can often be prohibitively expensive making it difficult for individuals in low-income households to afford balanced, healthy food putting family members at high risk of poor health. Often limited food budgets result in dollars spent to purchase as much food as possible without taking into account nutritional value....
This problem is not insurmountable, but we need to work together. With support from local government officials, churches, the university and technical college, businesses and local citizenry, we need to put our collected wisdom and talent together to abolish this virus for good. This is doable, so lets do it!!
Several of our volunteers for the street ministry are Vietnam vets and they will tell you that in wartime, you never leave anyone behind. This also applies to our fellow citizens here locally in peace time, as well: we take care of are own and will never leave anyone behind!
Mike - Street Pastor - CVSM
P.S. - We will be covering the topic of poverty in greater debt in future journals.
Please refer to the following link for further information.
Chippewa Valley Street Ministry Journal October 2, 2019
I want to share an experience we had because its important to us that you know what is happening in our community. My description has to be altered to protect the privacy of the individual and while that is absolutely necessary, its also unfortunate because I may not be able to accurately describe the seriousness of the situation.
It won't come as a surprise to read that the people we serve struggle on a daily basis, we write about it in most of our journals. They struggle with mobility due to transportation challenges and medical complications. They need to be aware of safety concerns due to their vulnerability of simply being exposed and the challenges to safety that untreated mental health brings. There are seasonal challenges to not overheat or become dehydrated or become hypothermic in the midst of subzero weather. These situations have become commonplace and that in itself is unacceptable.
On 9-25-19 I was asked to talk to a woman that we've recently written about, Pastor Mike had observed her during the day and noted she didn't look well. I stopped by the given location and chatted with her about her day and how she was feeling. She didn't feel well, not well at all. Knowing the woman and how she often won't interact with anyone, I knew I needed to assess her quickly but not so she felt she was being interrogated. I had observed one of her feet a few weeks ago and had been very concerned about her. I requested to again look at that foot and to my surprise, she said I could look at both feet. I cannot go into great detail which is a frustration because I need you to know the degree of damage that this woman, a community member, is experiencing. I'm clearly not a physician with the ability to diagnose, however I do believe it is safe to suggest that there are areas on both of her feet that have deteriorated and may not heal. The odor was horrendous, the flies were no better. I'm not sure she can feel pain due to the damage but she does admit that walking is difficult. We assisted in getting her medical care and will be checking in with her.
This is happening in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. People are still sleeping outside. Who else is suffering like this woman is? No one should be hungry. No one should be homeless. No one should be without hope.
While charity is appreciated it is not a long term solution; this is a Justice issue, pure and simple. We need a bigger safety net to catch people who are free-falling to the point that they simply cannot help themselves. Poverty, and the causes of poverty, need to be addressed. There are too many people suffering now, and in time and if we continue on the same path, that number will only grow.
Thank you for your interest and support of the street ministry. Please keep the people we serve in your hearts, thoughts, and prayers.
Karen - Social Worker/Street Nurse