It is so hard to believe that its August. It was not that long ago that we were bundled up in the cold and wishing for the warm weather we had tonight. The cooler weather will be returning in a flash, I suspect, and we'll still be on the street ministering to those in our community who are in not as fortunate as ourselves. This evening we (Jens, Kelly, Barb, Brent, Michelle, Pastor Mike and myself) served approximately 38 people.
I cannot speak for the other volunteers or tell the stories they heard. Of the 38 visitors we had tonight, I spent nearly all of my time between two women and listening and talking with them. The first woman has been on the streets of Eau Claire since June, I believe she had been homeless in Lacrosse, WI prior to her arrival here. We questioned the legitimacy of her story during our initial meeting and our concerns have grown at each visit. Without going into a great deal of specifics, the basics of her story is that she claims she has a fiancé overseas who is bringing home a child for them to adopt. Today, another woman approached us with more information and we felt we needed to speak frankly with the first woman of our concerns. We wholeheartedly believe she has gotten herself involved in a scam. She has sent money to an account somewhere, the person she sends it to has claimed repeatedly that for various reasons he is unable to get to Eau Claire for her, and the child she anticipates adopting likely does not exist. It was difficult to essentially break this woman's heart, dash her hopes and the dreams that she's been living for, but at some point we felt we needed to, at the very least, suggest a different way of thinking for her own protection. She remained calm the entire visit, we shared our continued support of her and encouraged her to contact us as needed to simply talk. After our discussion, she chose to not stay at the shelter and wandered off. She is not a healthy woman by any means. I firmly believe that she's been taken advantage of and that we did the right thing by talking to her about that possibility, but myself being a dreamer, I understand how hearing the truth can hurt. For someone with nothing else giving her a glimmer of hope during her struggles, telling her our concerns seemed like a cruel thing to do. I end my day thinking about her and hoping she either returned to the shelter or is safe somewhere tonight.
My other story relates to a newcomer and I can find no other word to describe our interaction other than "bizarre". Pastor Mike and I had seen this woman on Monday, she was sitting in a wheelchair outside of the shelter with a vast array of belongings. The shelter enforces their policy of bringing limited belongings inside and I was curious about where her things would be placed. I kept my eyes open and spotted her coming down the street with very little with her. I met her on the sidewalk and tried talking to her, she was hesitant to talk with me. With every question I posed to her, rather than answer it she would ask me the same question. When I answered, she would then answer. She finally told me that she was checking me out so see if I was safe or if I would harm her, or if she believed that I was trying to get something from her. She was wearing a long white shirt, the cuffs on the shirt were folded back and the buttons were missing. To keep the fabric controlled, she had what appeared to be two black rubber bands looped and tied through the buttonholes of the cuffs of both sleeves. She had a black leather vest, black jeans and sandals, as well as a black hat and a bright pink scarf covering the back of her head. I flipped-flopped between thinking she is mentally ill or an eccentric lady. I hope we'll see her again, if for no other reason to know she's safe.
There was good news from one of our long time visitors, she reported being approved for housing and will be transitioning to an apartment sometime in September. She's been homeless for many years after losing her job in food service. She's a leader among the homeless population and a good resource for us when we are trying to locate someone or need information about an individual. While we'll miss her smile and stories, we're happy for her to have a place to call home.
Thank you for your continued support of both the street ministry and of the community's less fortunate. Please pray for the safety and well-being of all.