Plymouth Street Ministry Journal--Friday, December 26, 2014 - George
'Twas the day after Christmas and out on the street . . .
Nah, I'll skip the bad poetry. Tonight was a pretty calm night for the Plymouth Street Ministry. Mike, Jens, and I met at our usual spot in the parking lot at around 5:30. The temperature was in the upper 30s with little or no wind. We've had a mild winter so far, especially compared to last year, and that makes standing outside for an hour and a half easier for us, and, more importantly, easier for the homeless who spend much more time outside.
Still, life for the homeless is not easy--far from it. For example, one of our visitors tonight carried a CPAP machine with him. The machine was about the size of a large lunch box. (For those unfamiliar with the term, a CPAP machine is a ventilator used by those with sleep apnea.) I don't know where he stores it during the day, but each night he lugs it to the shelter because he needs it to sleep. He sleeps in one of the chairs each night because there aren't electrical outlets close enough to the bunks in the shelter.
Another visitor was so soft spoken I could barely hear him. He said he was getting over a cold and the related congestion. Mike asked if there were many sick in the shelter now. The man's reply: "Always." Many of the homeless suffer through one minor illness after another. First, they are repeatedly exposed to others who are sick in the shelter. Second, they lack the luxury of getting bed rest when they need it--they must sleep according to other people's schedules, and much be out of the shelter early each morning. Third, they often spend a lot of time outside in cold and damp conditions. The list could go on and on, but it seems that every time I talk with a homeless person with a cold, I realize some other thing that I take for granted in my life.
Not all was gloom and doom, however--a third visitor was full of good cheer. He was balding and I'm guessing he was in his sixties. He was wearing pants and a winter jacket, and, over his pants, a very out-of-place-looking black skirt. He was chuckling and told us that when when they ask for women to enter the shelter--the women enter a few minutes before the men--he would walk up and show off the skirt. "That should give everyone a good laugh, he said." He seemed very pleased about his upcoming joke. I wish I could remember his exact words, but said something to the effect of "if you can't laugh, you're not really living." Cheerful people really help out everyone--in a place where so many suffer from depression, other mental illnesses, estrangement from families, and addictions, laughter is a godsend. I have no idea how well his joke went over--perhaps I'll find out on a future time out with the Street Ministry.
JF stopped by and talked to us a long time. The thrift shop did hire him--he has had a temporary job for the holiday season--but his hours have been reduced. He looked good and seemed happy. I saw a few other of our regular visitors. All-in-all I think we talked with around 20 visitors, and distributed about that many bags of food, water, juice, and hand warmers. We also gave out a coat or two and some other winter apparel. We heard much "street news"--this person was in jail, that couple went to Menomonie, this woman's newborn was a boy, this other person just disappeared, so-and-so was ill or hooked up with that other person, and so on. At 7pm there were 20 to 25 people waiting to get in to the shelter, and more were arriving. (Many wait in vehicles, or nearby buildings, right until opening time.) We had no more visitors, so we called it quits and headed home.
Please pray for, and care for, the poor.
STREET JOURNAL FOR – DECEMBER 26, 2014 - Jens
Mike and I met at Plymouth UCC at about 5pm. We went sorted through some donated clothing, and packed up the van for the evening. We arrived downtown at about 5:30pm, and George arrived about 5:45pm. Whether it is due to the weather or people being able to find shelter during this Christmas week, we did not have members of our street congregation arrive till 6:15-6:30pm. With poor weather predicted for Saturday, we gave out several coats and hand warmers, along with the usual food bag with water and/or juice.
During the week however, Mike was very busy helping out one of our members who lives out of his car. This man was having terrible stomach pain that required Mike to take him to the ER. The doctors believed that it was a bad stomach ulcer, and were able to prescribe him some medication to help. We were able to touch base with this gentleman on Friday night. Though his pain was under control, it was difficult for him to handle eating anything more then a snack or two at a time.
As we continue into this frigid time of the year, remember to pray for those who have no place to take shelter from the cold. Pray for those who go to sleep with nothing to eat. And pray for those with little to no clothing to help protect them from the cold, especially the youth.