We served about 25 on this relatively mild but damp December evening. It seems that there are more new people than the people I’ve become used to seeing. We did see some of our “regulars” and for the most part, they are stable.
One of our regulars who has multiple health concerns has a great deal of difficulty walking due to her physical status. Mariah and I met her on the sidewalk a bit of a distance from our post to shorten the distance for her. She has multiple lesions on her legs and is optimistic that most are healing well. She discussed the challenge of sleeping with sleep apnea as well as her depression that, in her words, is “off the charts”. I asked her if there was one thing she could change to make life easier, she said that if she could live without her severe back pain that everything would be better. As for now, she walks about a third of block and has to rest, walks another short distance and rests. She uses a walker and has to carry her belongings with her.
Another person we’ve seen on a routine basis also has health problems. She states that she is considering trying to get an apartment with someone to lower housing costs but the person she would room with has tendencies that she does not always feel safe or comfortable with. It is hard to support her decision when we know she may feel unsafe and is unable to defend herself, we remind her to keep talking to us and keep us informed. While we have our opinions, we know that each person will make their own decision and if we’re needed again, we’ll be available. Fortunately, most of us have likely not been in this position so we can’t understand what we would need to give up in order to have shelter.
Our teamwork and communication were instrumental in managing a situation we had this evening. Last Friday, a young woman, seemingly disabled, approached the street ministry and talked with Barb. She was provided with needed items, safety was discussed and she was told to talk to us if she needed anything, our typical protocol for anyone we encounter. On Monday, the UWEC campus police sent out an email to all students alerting them to a sexual assault that had occurred near Water Street. I forwarded that email to Pastor Mike who then shared the message with the volunteers on the street prior to our going out, as well as had fliers made to hand out to the women we serve as reminder to be cautious. The young woman that Barb had talked to on Friday arrived at the vans again this evening and was accepting of our visiting and the usual bag of food and water as well as the printed flier and the explanation that went with it. She and her friend looked at the information and talked together and then approached Barb and Becky, the woman wanted to talk about a rape that had occurred over the weekend. I joined them and we quickly determined that the woman had been raped and had not yet reported the incident or had been evaluated. We discussed who, what, when and where and confirmed that the woman wanted to report the rape. When she confirmed that she did want to make an official report, we coordinated as group to ensure that her needs came first and also continued to serve those that came to us. The shelter was notified of the situation to ensure that they would save a space for the woman and her friend if we returned late, they were very accommodating and supportive. When these situations arise, we must consider our safety as well so we rarely go to appointments alone. Becky and I went to a local ER with the woman and she was evaluated, her information will be processed in the crime lab. While in the ER, we learned a great deal about the woman. She is very vulnerable due to a cognitive deficit, and from what I could tell, she has been taken advantage of her entire life. She has a history of multiple foster home placements. I’m not suggesting that the foster homes were inadequate but rather that she has a history of instability and has had to learn to survive in any means possible. She is a sweet woman but definitely needs guidance. She has an incredible memory, a definite strength for her report. I’m suspect we will have updates about this woman in the next few weeks as she has no family or friends to stay with and will likely continue to stay at the Sojourner House. While at the ER, Becky and I praised the woman for her courage in reporting the incident. She has an advocate from the district attorney’s office to also support her through the legal part of this journey.
In other journals we’ve discussed the increased rate of sexual assault to the women living without permanent shelter. This young woman had only been in Eau Claire for two nights before finding herself in danger. I wonder how many women out there do not feel confortable enough to report their incident. For our part, all we can do is educate, support and be available as the stories come to us.
As I come to a close on this journal, I want to remind you to look at the needs list as well as the other notices. Have you looked atgofundme.com or been to Lynn’s Chatterbox?
Pray for those we serve ~
‘Til next week,