February 23, 2009
It seemed like a simple trip from Santa Ynez to Fillmore for a family funeral for Mark and his little boy. It meant a day out of school for a sad occasion, but an outing together nonetheless.
Mark’s friend lives in Ventura and they decided to spend the night so that the last leg made in the morning would be less hectic.
Mark and his son left Ventura about 7:30 am and they planned to stop at MacDonald’s. He had $15 to last to the end of the month and they spent $8 of it at breakfast. Foolish he knew, but rarely did he have a day out with his son.
Near Hallock Drive, something happened to the car. It was raining and a little dreary. Mark’s car began to slide into a large truck in the lane next to him. A car behind them both struck mark’s car. The little boy was wrenched in his seatbelt and the air bag’s exploded
Santa Paula’s medical team and Fire Department were dispatched within seconds. The passengers were transported to Santa Paula Hospital Emergency Room. The calm one was 8 years old.
Dad knew that someone needed to be called but his cell phone was in the car. While the Fire Department had searched for it, it was not to be found. Mark was not able to remember anyone’s phone numbers but could remember the name of his son’s elementary school. They were able to provide emergency phone numbers needed to summon help.
Mark called several people but no one answered. No one knew about the car accident and no was standing by to help this family. The ER doctor insisted the patients remain for a while for observation
At about 2 pm, the pair was released from the ER. They sat in the waiting room wondering how they would get back home and how they would get their personal items from the car.
A local Chaplain heard about their plight and agreed to take them home. They first went to McCoy’s Automotive to see the car. It had been moved to a remote location for storage and a nice man guided them. It was raining by now, the windows in the car were smashed and there was no power to close them.
Fortunately, the cell phone was found up under the seat. In 30 minutes, all their personal items had been removed and they were headed home. Their car was a total loss and Mark had no damage insurance for his own car.
Mark was not on able to reach his son’s mother, his parents were too sick to make the drive. His brother did not get off work until 5 pm and could not be reached either.
There was only one thing to do and that was for someone to take them back to Santa Ynez. On the way, reality began to reveal itself. Only $7 remained for the 11 days left in the month, this month’s rent had not been paid, and their car had been demolished. How would Mark make his doctor’s appointments? How would he look for a job? How would his son get to school?
The son was very concerned about what would happen to his dad and their belongings. He soon asked, “Dad, does this mean we will be homeless?”
No one answered his question, including me. It is now the end of the month. There by now must be no money; there is no car, there never was a job; the first of the month is here again.
On their way out of town at the gas station, the ambulance crew was on a move-up and recognized the riders. They made their way to the car to greet them and wished them well.
This family was changed by their day in Santa Paula. Most of it was good; some of it was problematic and they clearly could have been dead.
What it points to is the fragile circumstance people encounter when they have no margin for error. They live in an affordable housing complex paying $1100 in rent. They are on the waiting list for Section 8 which is 3-4 years out.
Their resources are tapped and there is no safety net. So goes their story. For them it is now way day at a time and the future is not promising. Did they cause some of their problems they face. Probably. Didn’t we all?