It was not all joy, tonight, however. There was also a sense of foreboding among many of the homeless. Several commented how cold the evenings have become. They also noted fatalistically that winter is not far off. Two men wondered if the first snow would come in early November, or even late October.
We had a fairly steady flow of visitors to the vans. We saw a few folks we hadn't seen in many months. There were also a few we had never seen before, including one man that appeared to be dazed or high. He had come to Eau Claire recently and is living in a tent somewhere in the woods. Another man talked with us for quite a while. He had been staying with a woman who got back into drugs. The man is a recovering alcoholic and tried to talk her out of using, but she either wouldn't listen or couldn't quit. He decided that it was better to leave her and his housing and live in a homeless shelter than to risk staying in that environment. He has a job operating construction equipment for an agency, but has been unable to get to work sites for the last few days since his car is not running. Mike is going to get him a bike so he can go to local jobs. The man also admitted that he has trouble handling money, and asked about financial and budgeting mentoring programs. Michelle found several churches that offer such programs and gave him that information. To most of our visitors we have a bag containing a bottle of water, a juice pouch, and some food. We also distributed a few pairs of socks, a hat, some hygiene supplies, and at least one sweatshirt. We estimate that we served about 35 people tonight.
Please pray for, and care for, the poor.
Plymouth Street Ministry notes by Karen
During my time volunteering on the street, I've talked with numerous people with health concerns -- either their physical health or their mental health, or both. The journals written by myself and others -- in fact, Michelle wrote about health problems that she was told about last week -- tell tales of someone who has been ill or in the hospital, or someone has who had surgery and had a brief hospital stay or maybe no stay at all, and they have returned to the street all too soon. I cannot imagine having to recuperate from an illness or a procedure having the library or an agency of some sort as my only safe and quiet place for recovery. By being homeless and not having a controlled environment, there is an increased chance of infection, an overall poor diet will effect healing time, and the lack of necessary items such as equipment or simply a place to relax can prolong recuperation. The stress of the medical issue added to the already constant stress of homelessness must be almost unbearable to some people.
On Tuesday, I talked with two women who report significant health matters. One woman appeared despondent, she said she had talked with her physician earlier that day and testing had indicated that she had significant decreased pulmonary (lung) function. She was going to be treated with oral medications and inhalers and hoped that breathing would be easier. Her function was not poor enough to warrant oxygen but it is poor enough to limit her daily activities. Her shortness of breath causes sleep problems, she says that its even harder to breath laying down. She said she can walk one block before having to sit down, she has a nice walker that she can turn around and use as a seat to rest. I wonder how she'll manage in the winter? During the last winter season she didn't have any walker or seem ill, she stayed in her car with another person just about every night and seemed relatively healthy.
The other person I talked to has significant health problems, multiple diseases fighting her in various degrees. Her legs are so swollen that they are cracking open and draining, she says that the best practice for the condition would be to elevate her legs as much as possible, not an easy option for someone without a place to stay log-term. Another problem is her needing a walker that she states is in a storage unit that she cannot get to. The vehicle that she and her husband had been using is now in disrepair and may have been towed out of a city lot, it was there on Tuesday when I talked with them but as of Friday, it was no longer sitting on the lot. Without the vehicle, transportation is obviously an issue and while they do take the bus once in awhile, funding for that is limited, too, and the bus likely doesn't go right to the storage unit. She's aware of the importance of managing the open areas on her legs, she has a history of having wounds like this and knows what will happen if she doesn't take care of them.
There are a great number of people on the street with some form of mental illness or another, and often it is untreated. Treatment for mental illness needs to be consistent and attainable and this is not always a possibility. Transportation, lack of stability, lack of insurance, and level of cognition are just a few reasons that mental health care is difficult for our people to obtain.
Medication management is still another challenge on the street: depending on the medication, a person needs to go to great lengths to protect their prescription or risk it being stolen from them. Its just one more thing for them to be concerned about, as is taking the medication at certain times or with food. Being ill in any form is not convenient even if you do have a home. Without shelter and roaming the streets, an illness complicates matters.
There's no easy answers and my objective is simply to make you aware of yet another challenge our street people face. Please pray for the health and wellness of our street family!