We served about 35 people, many wanted gloves and hoodies or coats. There is a man that is somewhat new to Eau Claire that has significant medical issues and due to his ailments is often in pain or generally uncomfortable. Due to his discomfort, he is particular about how his clothing fits and feels and it has taken three different visits from him and our searching in our storeroom between visits to find a hoodie that would work. He was very grateful and wanted to give the previously given hoodie back to us but he felt obligated to wash it once he was in the shelter. I took it from him and will wash it. His concern for others as well as not wanting more than he needed is a trait many of our people have. For example, more than once I've had someone come to me with a pair of jeans or a shirt or a backpack that wasn't quite right for one reason or another or they'll only take one of an item even though we say its okay to take more. They often want to trade for something else, this impresses me as it would be just as easy to dump the clothing in the garbage somewhere and just keep asking until the right item comes along. For the most part, I think its safe to say that our people are typically not greedy, not wasteful, and aware of practical limits.
I don't have to much other general information to share as I became involved in a situation that took the rest of our time on the street and extended into the evening. You may recall our journals discussing a young mother with three children. The little family arrived in the dark after getting off of the bus. The mom took some chili, I picked up and held one child who has a tendency to dash off here and there and be unsafe and Barb looked after the baby. We gave them bags of food and water as well as some mittens and clothing. Another volunteer mentioned to me that the mom had reported that they had no where to stay Saturday night. Because of the children being involved, we knew we had to take responsibility for their shelter for the night. The plan was to send them to a motel and call in or bring in a payment after our time on the street. Sounds simple but that was not how it turned out. The mom said that the buses had stopped running for the day so we then needed provide transportation. The kids came on the bus, no car seats were with them. Thankfully, our gracious donors have sent car seats to us and we had that hurdle covered. We then realized that none of us had an available vehicle to transport the family. Greg and I took one of the ministry vans to pick up the car seats and my vehicle that I'd left at Plymouth UCC and then returned to the parking lot with both vehicles to pick up the children, mom and her friend. We brought the group to the motel and then picked up some diapers and personal items and left them in peace. The place the mom and the kids have been staying is a very unhealthy environment for the kids as well as the mom. There is emotional abuse going on between others staying there and the mom, and the kids are getting trapped in the crossfire. This young family is a source of great concern for all of us, we hope that some positive changes occur soon for them.
We were especially grateful for the St. James/Trinity people being present as they took up duties that they maybe did not anticipate doing after a few of us left the site to care for the family noted. Perhaps this crash course in what we do will cause a desire to return as regular volunteers.
The above situation has been on my mind a great deal and I admit that I had some frustrations with the lack of communication that the mom has given us. She has our phone numbers and knows she can text or call 24 / 7 yet she waited until the last moment to mention that she had no shelter for the night as well as some other needs. I had a realization that I wonder if others would benefit from hearing: I cannot judge the mom or question the "why's" of her actions because I have no idea of what its like to be her. I have never lived her experiences, I have never been homeless with three young children, I have never had to take my kids and leave the shelter I've been in to keep us safe. We (the street ministry) believe there's mental illness present and that adds another dimension to the story. The mom clearly has made some questionable decisions but I cannot say with full certainty that in her situation, I'd have done any better. Her decisions are clouded by anxiety, uncertainty, stress, fear and depression. Our job is to care for those in need and we will continue to do just that.
Thank you for your continued interest and support of the street ministry. Please continue to support and pray for those in need.