Chippewa Valley Street Ministry October-12-2022
The number of visitors to our tables are growing, we are routinely seeing at least 40 people per visit. Many of our friends are staying at the shelter, but others are staying outdoors for various reasons ranging from mental health to eligibility to personal preference. We've swapped out our summer clothing for warmer clothing including thermals, mid-weight coats and gloves. The days have been mild but the overnights are getting cold; blankets and sleeping bags are regular requests and we've been able to fill each need.
With the changing of the seasons, the chances of cold related injuries also increase. We talk about this every year but we want to keep the information of the dangers of cold weather at the surface: as a community, we cannot forget that there are people without permanent shelter or few places to go who are at risk of injury. It doesn't have to be snowing, blowing, and frigid for harm to occur. It can actually feel relatively mild to some of us. Per the CDC, "While hypothermia is most likely at very cold temperatures, it can occur even at cool temperatures (above 40°F) if a person becomes chilled from rain, sweat, or submersion in cold water." Frostbite might be less likely but the danger is present with the impending cold weather.
The following pictures were taken in previous years but they visually describe the injuries that some of our friends have experienced and what we are so determined to avoid:
These pictures show the results of frostbite on fingers. We provide gloves or mittens and hand warmers to
help prevent these injuries from occurring.
This is the lower leg/foot of a woman who spent a great deal of time in the elements with ill-equipped footwear and clothing.
When the attempt was made to pull the gray socks down, flesh was literally being pulled away from the extremity due to the poor circulation and rotting tissue. Ultimately, this person was diagnosed with sepsis and was placed in a hospice unit. We never saw her again.
Each evening, we are prepared to provide mittens or gloves, boots, heavy socks, heavy clothing, blankets or sleeping bags to our brothers and sisters facing a night in the cold. Local policy determines when emergency weather protocol is initiated and services are expanded. When the services are not available because the temperature has not dropped enough, sometimes there are no other options for people than to stay outdoors and in the cold, those people are of utmost concern to us. Every year we expect to lose a friend to the cold and most years, it is at least one person and sometimes more.
There is some good news: there will be a warming center in our community that will be available for our unhoused brothers and sisters starting in November for a few hours each day. We hope that it will be utilized and reduce the risk of harm but we know that not everyone will use the facility for the same reasons listed above: mental health to eligibility to personal preference. Again, it is the people out in the elements that are our greatest concern.
Our time on the street is filled with providing necessities and having conversations with people who just want to be heard. One man is heading out of town for a surgical procedure that will be extensive and he has significant anxiety about the postoperative phase. A woman lamented that she can't afford the "affordable housing" and doesn't know where to turn. People that we served years ago and had obtained housing have now lost the housing and returned to the shelter. The mental illness symptoms we observe are not lessening. The population is growing and we expect it will continue to grow: each time we're out we listen to people saying that they never thought homelessness could happen to them. Everyone has a unique story of why they are there, most know that it will not necessarily be easy to get back to housing.
We will be sending out a needs list in the next few days, please be on the lookout for that. We genuinely appreciate your support and partnership in caring for this fragile community. Please keep our brothers and sisters in need in your thoughts and keep yourselves well and healthy.