Plymouth Street Ministry Journal--Friday, April 17, 2015
What a beautiful day! It was sunny and in the mid 70s when I arrived at the parking lot at 5:50pm. My first thought was that Mike needed help--there was a large crowd around the van. Then, as I got closer, I realized that the crowd was mostly volunteers; Jens, Michelle, Brent and Kaye (who were out volunteering on their anniversary--happy anniversary to them!), and two social work students, Mariah and Sam, were all there in addition to Mike. It was wonderful to see so many people helping--it allowed us to spend more time with each visitor and to listen to their stories without distractions. It was also uplifting to the homeless to see that so many people care about them.
Many people dropped by to see us. A car pulled up with some familiar faces but they brought us some bad news. ND was back in the hospital. Apparently another one of our regulars, who has a history of mental problems, snapped and beat up ND over some trivial matter. ND was already very weak from his several heart attacks, so we were (and are) concerned. Several others came up to us later and told us the same story. Mike and Jens are planning on visiting ND tonight or tomorrow. The other man is now in jail. Please keep all involved in your prayers.
TM also stopped by the van. He told me a long tale. Last weekend he got drunk again, caused more trouble, and spend a night in jail. He spent this week regretting his actions, trying to undo what he could, and trying get back on track while staying away from alcohol. This has been a pattern with TM. He is the nicest, gentlest, humblest man you would ever meet when he is sober. Every two or three weeks, however, he gets drunk again and ends up in a bad situation. He has a court date on Monday, and is trying to stay on his best behavior. I told him that we'd be thinking about him and praying for him, and I ask all of you to do the same.
The end of this week got a little better for TM--he finally got back to his temp job at the dump, where he helps with various tasks. This week it was putting in fence posts. He said he enjoys the work, although fence building was more tiring than usual. Brent came over and joined our conversation. Brent told TM that he is a recovering alcoholic himself and that he understood how hard it was. (Brent told me that it was ok for me to write this.) TM was interested and started asking Brent questions about his experiences. Brent told TM that he could contact him if TM ever needed to talk. I decided that it was best to leave the two alone--I could tell the Brent was relating to TM and was serving as a very positive role model. The two talked for a very long time, and I think Brent made quite a positive impact on TM.
Two women with very young children, one only a baby, dropped by. I believe they are staying at Beacon House, a nearby shelter for families. Many of the volunteers and visitors alike spent time holding and making smiley faces at the baby, who smiled back a lot and helped out everyone's mood. Two other women also dropped by and talked with Kaye, Michelle, and Mike. I don't know the details, but I think the listening was helpful, since the conversations ended with hugs.
I didn't keep a careful count, but I'd guess we served between 20 and 30 people tonight. To most we gave our usual bag of food, some candy, bottled water, and juice pouches. It's nice that we no longer need to include hand warmers! We had many volunteers tonight, but that is the exception and not the rule. We can always use more help! We packed up and left a few minutes past 7pm as the shelter across the street opened for the evening.
Please pray for, and care for, the poor.
Street Journal - Tuesday, March 31, 2015
This is somewhat long, please be sure to see the end of the note!
What a beautiful day! Mike, Michelle, Mary, Pastor David and I were present to serve the homeless this evening and we needed each and every person as we served 40 people today, and an additional 5-8 people came by just to visit. I have not seen that many people come to us in one evening since I started volunteering in October. While its fulfilling being able to help those in need, it is concerning as to why the numbers are growing.
I won't attempt to share all of the stories, however a few people stood out to us. In my last week's journal, I wrote about a young man who has been riding his bike to and from his work in Chippewa Falls. He approached us last evening on foot and shared that his bike had been stolen. We were prepared to provide a lock for the bike but it was too late. While losing his bike is a set back, we were pleased to hear that he's still working and is catching a ride with a co-worker. He walks from Sojourner House to near the Family Video store near Mayo. Not only did he lose the bicycle but he lost some independence. If anyone has a bicycle to donate, please let us know ASAP. It would be so unfortunate if this young man lost his job because of transportation challenges.
A young woman approached us needing items and a hygiene kit. She shared that she is 23 years old and has only been on the street for a few days. She admitted being inexperienced on the streets, we are very concerned for her well-being. She'd had a argument with her parents and she says that they kicked her out of their home. She said she'd had a job but because she had lost her transportation, she'd lost her job. The outlook for her is not a positive one. We see people budding-up for safety reasons, and we hope she can find someone that will keep an eye out for her.
We had a young couple visit us, the woman needed some personal items and they both took the food bags. The woman reported having been in St. Joe's hospital due to a motor vehicle accident and getting out recently. She seemed timid and unwilling to share much but we reassured her that we'll be available when and if they need.
Another young man came by, he appeared somewhat teary when I spoke with him. He had just been released from jail and all he had with him was in a black plastic bag that he'd gotten from the jail. He's from Ashland but has decided that he wants to stay in Eau Claire and not move back to the drug environment he was used to. He believes that there's a better chance for jobs here and he's hopeful that the meth use is less available here than in Ashland. He definitely needs social support as much as anything else right now. My estimate is that he's maybe 20 years old. He said that if he got himself back into the drug scene that the only thing left was prison or death and he wants to avoid both.
Our woman from Mississippi reported she was going to get to go home. We wish her the best and hope that she wasn't misled or has any more struggles. Her last foreseen challenge was to get to WalMart where money was being wired to her and then figure out how to get to the bus station. That may not seem like a big hurdle but with no money on hand to pay for a ride or know anyone to help, it might as well be a mountain than a hurdle.
One of our old-timers has run out of options in regards to staying at the shelters. He has been banned from both Hope and Sojourner due to a criminal record and / or behavior. He is a fragile man health-wise. I believe he is in his 70's. Mike was taking him to a housing agency to try and get him some help. He's staying in a car with a woman who wants to keep him company and not worry where he's at or if he's okay. She had been staying in the shelter but has left temporarily to help this man.
We've received many visits from women and children staying at the Beacon House. One of the women shared that she had gotten a job so she was hopeful to be moving forward. She reported having a poor rental history due and many evictions and knows it will be difficult to find a landlord to rent to her. She has a positive attitude, that will help her.
After our homeless friends entered the shelter, we had a discussion about several situations we'd seen. I left the parking lot thinking how important it is to learn about the stories of these people so that we may better understand them or guide them in an appropriate direction. My perception of one person may not the perception of someone else. Each night we're there we talk to the people, some are more willing to share than others. Its the people we don't hear from that I get concerned about, the ones that don't want to ask for help or share with us their situation or why they're homeless, the ones that don't share hopes and dreams. Each of us has a story, its who we are. Hearing the stories can point to a person's strengths, maybe strengths the person didn't even know they had. I think that some of the people don't identify themselves as part of a story anymore, they're just homeless. That is simply not true and we need to continue to support them and listen to their stories.
Mike has other obligations for Friday and will be out on Saturday at the usual time, 5:30pm-7:00pm.