Please pray for, and care for, the poor.
Tonight was cold. Very cold. We had plenty of help: Ashleigh, Jacob, Karen, Kim, Larry, Mike, and I were all there with two vans. Did I mention it was cold? According to my weather app, it was 7 degrees when I arrived at 5:50 and 1 degree above zero with a "Feels Like" rating of 11 below when I left at a couple of minutes after 7. Despite being very warmly dressed--including wool socks, thermal socks, insulated boots, and snow pants, my feet were quite cold after an hour and ten minutes outside. We had fewer visitors than usual--we helped around 20 tonight--but more than I expected considering the temperature. Winter accessories were back in demand; we provided many warm hats and gloves. Of course, we also distributed the usual bags of food, hand warmers, water, and juice. Nobody stuck around to talk with us very long. The shelter let people in at 6:20, which 40 minutes before the usual opening time. (Thank you, Sojourner House!) We stayed until 7 just in case we had more visitors. I'm afraid I don't have much to report, other than "brrrrr." Please remember that we are out on the street in the cold by choice, and for only a short time, but the homeless don't have that luxury, and are out in the cold for much longer.
Please pray for, and care for, the poor.
Due to the inclement weather on Tuesday 02/02/2016, we did not spend time on the street this week until Friday. While we are dedicated to those we serve, our own safety is important and the decision was made to not have anyone travel that day. Volunteering on Friday, a much calmer day in terms of weather, were Larry, Brent, Jake, Barb, Becky, Michelle, Mariah and a new volunteer: Kim, a UWEC social work student.
We had about eighteen visitors, a slower evening than what we've become accustomed to. It is normal at the beginnings of the month to have fewer people so this is not concerning. As the month moves along our numbers will likely increase and we'll be prepared.
Most people came for a bag of food and a bottle of water and juice. Others came to share their stories, one woman who had been in a relationship with a man we know came and talked about their breakup. She was very tearful and was grateful fo the chance to talk with Barb and Becky. It didn't seem that many people stayed long. I don't recall the temperature but we all noticed the bite of the cold air, that could have been deterrent for our usual visitors.
We continue to be concerned about a young woman we've gotten to know who has young children. News from mutual acquaintances is not encouraging, we pray for her safety and that of her children. We remind her and her friends that we are available to her any time and any day.
With the few visitors we had, there is not much in news to share and maybe that's a good thing. For the most part, it was a peaceful outing.
Thank you to all of you for your interest in Plymouth Street Ministry. We couldn't do what we do without you! Take a look at the needs list, and on behalf of those we serve, thank you so very much!
Please continue to prayer for those we serve as well as those who do serve.
Plymouth Street Nurse
I arrived at the municipal parking lot at 5:45 to find Barb, Brent, Dani, Karen, and Mike there with both vans. They were talking with YG. I hadn't seen YG for quite a while. He is one of our success stories. He had been living in his car and staying at the shelter, but Plymouth Street Ministry helped him find a program that gave him housing, and he has stayed off the street for some months. He is doing well, still has his place, and stopped by to say hi.
It was cold tonight--in the upper twenties--but not bitterly so. It was warm enough that people were willing to stay and talk for a little. BK came by and talked with Barb for a very long time. She thinks she will have an apartment soon. We hope it all works out and that there are no snags. We had many visitors in need of one or more items of winter clothing. Two different men needed socks. A man needed gloves. A woman needed long underwear and a hat. Another man asked for a sleeping bag. Yet another requested a warm sweatshirt. Still a different man asked for a coat. We met all of these needs except the sleeping bag, and we will try to have one with us on Tuesday for the man that asked for it.
Since I mentioned asking: Ask, and you shall receive! We have been low on our supply of water bottles and put out a request for more. Tonight, Sheila stopped by with four cases in the trunk of her car! Thank you, Sheila! A little later Jens, who has been away from Eau Claire for college but still maintains our web presence and Facebook page, also came by. He is back for the weekend and brought six additional cases of water! Thanks, Jens! All that water will go to good use.
Just before we left I heard a disturbing story. A woman we have helped in the past has slipped back into her meth addiction in a big way. She has led an awful life and was sexually trafficked since she was very young. She didn't stop by, but one of her friends did and gave us the news. We are worried about the welfare of her three young children, and are trying to learn more and to get the appropriate help to her and to her children.
We left around 7, which is opening time for the homeless shelter across the street from the parking lot where we work. I didn't take a careful count, but I'm guessing we served around 30 people tonight.
One final note: During the Christmas season many people are reminded to think of the poor and homeless. We are now near the end of January, the poor are forgotten by many. Winter is nowhere near over, and there are still many needs. As always, and especially at this time of the year, please pray for, and care for, the poor.
Even though tonight was a little warmer out, roughly 22 degrees, the light wind made it feel like a regular cold January night. Mike, Larry, Jake, Michele, and myself were downtown this evening. We were taking a little extra care tonight making sure everyone that visited had enough warm clothing because the forecast for the next few days is sounding particularly harsh, with high temps around zero and wind chills at -30 by Sunday. We didn’t have to tell anyone this though, the homeless are very good about knowing when the temperature is going to drop so that they don’t get surprised by weather changes. As evidence of this we had many requests for gloves and thick socks, luckily we had enough for all those that needed them.
When we pulled into the parking lot at 5:30 we noticed a couple men over at the shelter already, and one of them was sitting on a bench hunched over from the cold. The other man came over for a bag of food and said that the man on the bench was 82 years old and was new. I went over to see him and all he wanted was a warmer jacket and some thick socks, which we were able to give him. We will see what more help we can find for him, but until that time please keep him in your prayers.
By 7:00 we had served roughly 25-30 people. Most of the rest were dealing OK with the cold, although not many liked it.
Please keep all our homeless friends in your prayers during very cold spells like this. They are allowed to stay at the shelter from 7pm to 7am, that still leaves 12 hours that they need to find warmth. And thank you for all the donations – whether it’s warm clothes or money for us to buy warm clothes – our friends on the street are very appreciative on days like this. Every night that I’m out there I hear many “Thank-You’s” and I wanted to make sure those Thanks get passed along to those that help the Ministry out in other ways also. So “Thank you!”
It was above zero, but only by one degree, when I headed for the parking lot where Plymouth Street Ministry parks its vans and where we conduct much of our ministry. A weather web site said the wind chill was -17 degrees, but I think the wind had calmed down a bit and the wind chill wasn't quite so bad. Nevertheless, it was still bitterly cold. I was the last volunteer to arrive--at about a minute before six. Barb, Becky, Jacob, Karen, Mariah, Mike, and Sam were already there helping two or three people.
For quite a while we had few visitors. When the temperatures are low most of those we serve are street savvy enough to find warm buildings to stay in until just before 7pm, the time the overnight shelter across the street from us opens. At 6:20 the number of visitors to our vans picked up. To all that wanted them we gave bags containing food, water, juice, and hand warmers. A few we outfitted with gloves or warm socks, but most already had as much winter clothing as they could carry with them. I saw a few familiar faces: a tall, very thin man suffering from AIDS; a woman who had been trafficked for all of her teen years; a short man who takes a bag from us and retreats quickly, never saying a word; several who struggle with alcohol addiction. Across the street a man waiting for the shelter was making strange noises that sounded in part like a crying baby and in part like an unhappy cat. We have seen him before and believe he suffers from significant mental illness, but he avoids us and there is little we can do to help him. As I read over what I have written, I worry that I leave the impression that all our visitors were strange and hopeless, which is not true. Many of tonight's visitors were simply poor folks who were grateful to get a bag of food and an article or two of warm clothing, and more than one had cheerful words of encouragement for us.
By 6:30 the cold was getting to several of the volunteers. (I still felt warm; I was the last to arrive and was dressed in many layers of winter clothing. I probably looked like the Michelin Man.) The small crowd of homeless waiting for shelter to open also looked to be shivering. One of us muttered a wish that they would open the shelter early so that the homeless could at least wait in warmth. Then, immediately after that comment (Really! I'm not exaggerating!), the shelter doors opened a half-hour early and we watched those waiting enter.
We started to pack up at 7pm when a young woman ran up to us and yelled "wait!" She looked to me to be in her mid teens, but, when Mike talked to her, she said she was 25. I still find that hard to believe. She was dressed in a large hooded sweatshirt. We tried to talk her into taking a warm coat, but she refused. She did gratefully accept a pair of gloves and a bag of food, however. Another man showed up as well and we gave him a bag of food and some extra hand warmers. When we left at ten after seven I was still warm, except for my feet, which, despite insulated boots and two pairs of thick socks--one wool and one thermal--felt like blocks of ice. In total we served about two dozen people.
My feet got cold tonight, and it was a bit unpleasant. For me, working with the street ministry is a chance to be helpful, and sometimes it feels a bit like an adventure. I know, however, that I can leave at anytime. I know that a few hours later I will be sitting at my computer in my study, warm and secure, typing up my journal of the evening's events. I will sleep tonight in my own bed under my own warm comforter. Others will not. They will have no security, only temporary warmth, and a bunk that is not their own in a room they will share with many others. This is the fourth winter I've been helping out with the street ministry, but the first really cold evening each year makes me introspective. It reminds me how unfair life can be and how much I have been given.
Please pray for, and care for, the poor.