Chippewa Valley Street Ministry Journal September 13, 2020
The last week has been difficult for our homeless friends. The temperature on several days didn't get much out of the mid 40's and 50's followed by cold rain. Wearing cold, rain soaked clothes can make life miserable. Because of the weather the street ministry was handing out hand warmers, light winter jackets and thermals. The weather forecast for this coming winter seems to be predicting a much colder and snowier weather pattern than last. Several of our friends have told us that they are predicting weather casualties for this coming year based on the number of people that are now in the street compared to this time last year. We lost one of our friends at the end of last year, an elderly woman whose feet became gangrenous from the cold and she ended up in hospice. This year so far we have lost 6 of our homeless friends due to a variety of circumstances. Life can be fragile on the street.
Sojourner House homeless shelter is now going to be located several miles outside of the downtown area and we are going to be dealing with two distinct homeless populations: those who have shelter and those who have not. Because of the impending winter and our sizable street population, the street ministry has been helping our friends in the street to organize within themselves. We have been working with two to three people per group and they will be responsible for each other also. We have been asking what their needs are now and what it may be in the coming months. They will let us know where we can locate them in order for the street ministry to do safety checks especially at night. We let them know what resources are available to them now and get their contact information. There is a definite shortage of water, bathrooms and access to indoor facilities to stay warm for our friends in the street at this time. When winter arrives this problem will only worsen. Finding a way to get flu shots for our friends is the next priority. Being sick with the flu is bad enough when one is housed, but catching the flu while living on the street it is almost indescribable how miserable it can be.
Last night while serving food and giving out clothes we handed out a few portable radios to our friends so they could listen to the football games today. They have no access to a t.v. or radio otherwise because of Covid-19 restrictions among other things. Helping our friends to experience a little bit of normal doesn't seem like much but when you're in the street it's a big deal! We are feeding on averaging 18 to 20+ people per time out. Please keep our homeless friends in your thoughts and prayers.
Staff - Chippewa Valley Street Ministry
The street ministry would like to take this time to acknowledge and thank Brianne Berres, the former director of Sojourner House, for her dedication and compassion to the people served by the street ministry and the Sojourner House homeless shelter. The individuals served under her direction are better from her care.
Brianne began her service to the homeless population in Eau Claire in 2019 near the end of the harsh winter. Relocating from another state, she immediately jumped in and began organizing and collaborating with other community resources to ensure safety for the people in need of shelter. She researched area agencies to gain knowledge of services available in order to be of best service to those who needed her. Brianne enlisted ideas and support from the community and incorporated the mission of Catholic Social teachings "(Catholic Social teachings are the Catholic doctrines on matters of human dignity and common good in society)" towards the care of the men and women staying at the shelter. Brianna changed the environment of the shelter by bringing new ideas, as well as non-traditional plans for fundraising, community education and structure at the shelter. Most of all, we observed the guests at the Sojourner House being treated with compassion, empathy and respect.
We, the volunteers at the street ministry, are sad to see Brianne move on but in the next chapter of her journey, we wish her and her family the very best. Thank you, Bri, and God bless.
Chippewa Valley Street Ministry volunteers
A word from Bri …
Brianne Berres, former director of Sojourner House
Picture provided by BB and used with permission
Being the Director at the Sojourner House has been one of the biggest blessings of my life and I will forever cherish the relationships, experience, and opportunities I have had while serving there. The Grace of God has been with me and I hope that God will show Grace on the guests that are served by Sojourner for many years to come as I have seen God do over these last 18 months.