Plymouth Street Ministry Journal - September 27, 2016
We served 33 people today in the mist and rain. By the time we were ready to leave the parking lot, the precipitation had nearly stopped and we started drying out. In service this evening were Brian, Chuck, Pastor Mike, Kayla,Jake, Brent, Mariah, Reece, Becky, Kat and myself. While there were many volunteers, we all kept busy with our visitors. For this journal, I'm writing only about one particular visitor.
As a group we noted a young man coming towards us. We greeted him and without stopping he replied with a simple hello and then continuing on his way. He crossed the street and eventually returned to the side of the street we are set up on. Brent went to talk with him and before long a group of volunteers -- Mariah, Brent, Brian, Chuck, and myself -- had joined this visitor to hear his story. We stood in a circle and sheltered him with our umbrellas while he answered our questions and told his story. He is relatively young, I'm guessing in his late 20s and is an army veteran. He had spent some time in Korea during his nine years of service and had left the military about two years ago. He'd come to WI from the East Coast with his significant other. They had been having relationship problems and he was now on the street with little to no hope of reconciling or getting his things out of the home they'd shared. We stood with him for many minutes trying to get to know him, listen to his story and offer our support. He fought to prevent shedding the tears that had welled up in his eyes. It wasn't entirely clear if they were tears of fear, frustration or sadness. I suspect it was a combination of all emotions as well as some sense of relief with being comforted. He had a very large, cumbersome suitcase with him that fortunately had wheels on it so he was able to pull it along. It was decided that we would provide a night in a motel for him to allow him space to relax and clear his head in peace. Because we still had some time to be on the street to serve others, we had him sit in one of the vans to wait and Chuck put the man's suitcase in his vehicle to keep it dry. We're working with other groups to try and expedite housing for him.
This morning the man called to thank the ministry for the stay at the motel and to report that he was going to a job interview. A few hours later he called to tell me that he'd gotten a job! Yesterday his mood was evident in his voice and body language. While I obviously couldn't see him through the phone, I could tell he was happy. I hope to keep in touch with him and share that he's moving forward from what seems to be a very stressful time in his life.
We're working with various groups to try and advocate for some services for the man. He has gone to the county VA office to start the process of getting services. In the time between now and when services start, we'll walk with him through his journey ... just like we do with all of our other friends.
Thank you for your support of the street ministry and of the people we serve. We are blessed to be a part of their lives and support them on their journey. Keep us all in your prayers.
Karen - Street Nurse
** ADDENDUM: since our initial encounter with this veteran, we have been in contact with several different veteran agencies and have advocated for services for him. We are pleased that he is likely to be accepted into a program in the area within the next few days and obtain shelter as well as have other needs met to move forward in his life. We did cover motel expenses for three nights, donations from you made that possible. THANK YOU!
Street note #1 from Chuck
Here's a little glimpse of one evening last week.
It was rainy and chilly last night. I got home I started a fire in the fireplace, put on dry clothes, put a pizza in the oven and settled into my recliner. It was then that I considered the privilege / luxury that I'm immersed in and how that contrasted those, "on the street", that I was with, just an hour ago and only a few blocks from where I live.
Again (Micheal Perry -- local artist ) .... "It could have been me; it could been you..."
Street note #2 from Kayla
As we volunteers moved around trying to get warm tonight out in the cold rain it wasn't difficult to imagine how miserable cold it would be for those who were out on their own on the streets tonight. We had a few people who were staying in the shelter tonight walk by without a rain coat and a few without a coat at all. One lady told Barb and me how difficult it was for her to find a jacket to fit her and that she was worried this year about finding a jacket that will keep her warm this coming cold spell. Another lady walked by our huddle of volunteers wearing sandals in the fridge rain, Pastor Mike stopped her and gave her a pair of men's tennis shoes, she seemed a little confused by the generosity. I hope to see her again in more appropriate for the weather clothing!
Plymouth Street Ministry Journal - September 20, 2016
It was a nice night weather-wise tonight, partly cloudy with temps in the upper 70's. We had a lot of volunteers tonight - Barb, Becky, Michelle, Mariah, Sam, Brian, Chuck, Jake, and myself, as well as Pastor Mike, and we needed all those people because we were fairly busy the entire time. It almost seemed like there was a full moon tonight - lots of noise and commotion. In all we handed out 42 bags of food/water but I think we talked to probably a few more than that, as well as giving out some clothing to a few people. A few people even stopped by to give us some donated clothing - a big "Thank You!" to those of you who have donated recently, it's getting to that time of year where people are needing warmer clothes so we are running low or have run out of some items.
One man that is from the Chicago area has been looking thru our supply of hats over the last few weeks for a Chicago Bears hat, which we haven't had. We were able to come up with one this week to give to him, and he seemed quite happy with it! I think that for a lot of the people we serve isn't so much getting a special item like this that cheers them up, but the kind gesture that comes along with it that brightens their day.
We were able to come up with a bike for a man that had been requesting one and delivered it tonight. I think he wanted it to be able to get around town and to work easier, and he was quite thankful for it. And we brought another package of requested clothing for a man who is looking ahead - a winter jacket and gloves. Fall is officially here so I'm sure we will be having more requests like this soon.
Again, thank you to all of you who support our Ministry and please continue to pray for the homeless and the needy.
Street Ministry Journal Part 2
It was a pleasant evening with temps at 75 to 80*.
We started off the evening with a brief meeting where Pastor Mike asked that we spend a little more time engaging those who stop by as we give out bags of water, juice, and candy bars. We also updated information about people that we have ongoing contact with and what to expect throughout the evening.
There were 8 or 9 people serving with the ministry and we gave out 42 bags of nourishment & pastries. In addition, a backpack, rain poncho's, and books were passed out and some requests for shoes and clothing items were noted.
There were a couple of loud people in the vicinity, of which, one stopped to talk and get a food bag, but the other drifted away not to be seen again.
I again was drawn to the compassion and genuine concern expressed by members of the ministry. It's a spiritually settling experience to view on as the gathered congregation comforts those who find themselves walking into the wind.
"What you do onto the least of these ......." was in full motion.
Please continue to pray for and support, in any way, this vital outreach.
Street Ministry Journal Part 3
I arrived late and missed most of our regulars, and all the new folks. But when I did arrive I heard an old friend was back in town and near the end of the evening she stopped by to visit. This vulnerable young woman spent a year on the street. After reconciling with her parents she returned home a little over a year ago. She reported tonight that she'd come to Eau Claire to visit, and would likely be returning home to get the rest of her things to make a permanent move to Eau Claire. There' s been no falling out, but she felt unappreciated for the things she did around the house and felt picked on for trivial things. She also mentioned a roommate who took her things without permission. She needed to get away. She's staying with a male friend she knew the year she spent on the street. They had looked out for one another and he seemed pleased to have her visit. He's found shelter in a mobile home and has room for her, for now. They have no transportation and no food in the house, but at least there's a roof overhead. I was glad to see her, but suspect her life will be more difficult without the support of her family.
From our volunteer, George ...
Thank you for all of the concerns, prayers, well-wishes, and offers to help in the aftermath of the Plymouth Church fire. We still don't know the official cause, but the fire occurred during a lightning storm and neighbors reported extremely loud, window shaking thunder, so we are unofficially pretty sure it was caused by a lightning strike. This Sunday we will be worshipping with Truax UCC at 9:30am, obviously at Truax. We'll be making lots of phone calls but spread the word to any Plymouth folks who aren't on Facebook.
The good news is that we have very good insurance that should cover replacement costs for the building and its contents and rental of temporary space and other costs to get us back on our feet. Plymouth Church will be rebuilt!
Kudos to Pastor David Huber for leading a prayer service in the parking lot tonight despite having been awake and working since before 2am this morning. Also to all the Plymouth folks who, after a hard day and many tears, are looking optimistically toward a future where Plymouth continues to do God's work by loving and serving others. I love these people.
Prayers for Plymouth United Church of Christ!
We are, as is the rest of the community, still in shock that the structure of Plymouth UCC was heavily damaged in a fire early this morning. The church that founded Plymouth Street Ministry for the homeless in the area is now itself homeless because of the devastating fire. No one was physically hurt in this tragedy, thankfully. The building is gone but the people are truly the church and the good works of this congregation will carry on.
Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ fire in Eau Claire on September 22, 2016. Staff Photo by Dan Reiland of the Eau Claire Leader Telegram
Street ministry Journal - Friday, Sept 16, 2016
Out in service this evening were Larry, Pastor Mike, Jake, Reece, Brent, Mariah, Kayla and myself. We served 45 people and were busy much of the evening visiting, providing basic items and supporting our brothers and sisters in need.
One young man shared that he'd recently been hospitalized after being dropped off in Eau Claire by some friends. He had been discharged with no where to go and with nothing other then what he was wearing. We provided the basics -- underwear, socks, pants, t-shirts, a sweatshirt and a backpack. By the time we had the last pair of socks in the backpack we were giving him, his demeanor was much more at ease than when he originally arrived.
Kayla and I met with with a young woman that we're concerned about. She was raped several months ago and we are concerned about her and her safety. We provided our contact information, talked about safety and encouraged her to be aware of her surroundings. She is very vulnerable to others' suggestions and this has caused her personal as well as financial problems in the past.
A regular visitor came by with her three year old grandson. He impressed us with his counting and color naming skills, the joy that was on his grandmother's face was unmistakable. She commented that having his innocence and joyfulness around her helped forget some of her struggles for awhile.
Brent, Jake, Larry, Reece and Pastor Mike were busy much of the evening, as well. Typically the women volunteers speak with the women while the men talk with the men who visit. It is for safety reasons as well as a comfort for our visitors. I do not have much insight into what the men saw this evening. I know they were busy and talked to many men.
As a group, we're aware of how many new people we are meeting and are wondering why that is. There are rumors of a
La Crosse shelter closing or large amounts of people being released from correctional facilities. Many of the new visitors are men but there are women, as well. You may remember that by the end of last month we were serving over sixty people at our visits. This evening, in the middle of the month, we're already serving over forty. We will prepare for more and keep talking with our visitors, perhaps their stories will shed some light on what is happening in the area to add more people to a population in need.
Please take a look at the needs list as well as our Facebook page and share it with your friends. Our website has up to date as well as archived journals if you would like others to know what we do. Feel free to share that, as well.
We appreciate your prayers, interest and support!
Karen - Street Nurse
Plymouth Street Ministry Journal - September 9, 2016
The skies were cloudy when we arrived at the parking lot to care for our friends in need but the rain stayed away. Out in service this evening were Pastor Mike, Michelle, Larry, Brian, Jake and myself. We served approximately 35 by handing out bags of food and drink as well as providing clothing to a few people.
I was happy to see the young woman with three children. She has been absent for a few weeks and we're always concerned that she is safe. She is tiny in stature but a fighter and survivor. She shared that she had called the police to report that her boyfriend had been abusing her. She is proud of the decision and while she feels often feels alone, she knows that she and her children will be safer for that decision.
We learned that one of our friends that we've known for quite some time has passed away. He had been homeless for several months but had obtained housing. He was a very kind man, a gentle spirit amongst us. He had been a Catholic seminarian for awhile and volunteered around the community. We will miss him and his ever-ready smile, we pray for his peace.
Three women arrived that needed the ministry's assistance. The women were not without shelter but rather people who follow and support the street ministry. One of the women showed us a picture and asked if we'd seen the young woman in the picture she was holding. The young woman had been missing for a couple of days and due to some health problems and her unusual absence, there was great concern. We had not seen her but offered to look for her and to post her picture and information on our Facebook page. We were thrilled to get the news that she had been found and wish her and her family well. Thank you to all of you who read and shared the posting, its amazing how many people were reached with your sharing: over 2200 people were reached and aware of the need to be looking for the woman.
We saw several of our regular visitors, some were not as conversational as other times. I can only imagine their thoughts and concerns, we'll be available when they are ready to share.
Please pray for those in need and as always, thank you so much for your interest and support.