It happened again this weekend. He was belligerent, half-dressed and wandering the streets talking to himself. He was arrested a week ago. That makes 15 times since 2015 and many of these were in the last few months. What to do?
The Police can do nothing more until this person is declared “gravely disabled.” It won’t be soon. He is very resourceful, having lived on the streets for several years. His brother is also on the streets, as was a brother before him who died while incarcerated in the Todd Road jail. What is the common thread?
One homeless man in another part of the County visited the ER 152 times last year. One of ours who died in January, was at the Santa Paula hospital ER no less than an estimated 30 times. I took her numerous times and she was transported by medical professionals many more.
A woman in town was arrested today for throwing a rock through a car window. She’ll be out soon and the cycle begins again. She is homeless half time, coach surfing here and there.
The One Stop is making such inroads into helping our people who are homeless find their way. The shower is everything to them. Some are lazy however, and come by the Drop In Center for a breakfast snack and then decide to forego the shower because they don’t like to wait in line.
Starting this week, James Boyd from the Whole Person Care program agreed we will close the Drop In Center on Friday mornings and serve a light breakfast at the Church so there is no excuse for missing this important engagement. They can see a doctor, a nurse, get assistance with their MediCal and other benefits including Pathways to Home.
Through that program, four of our people have found rentals; one in Camarillo, one in Ventura and two seniors right here in town. While they prefer to stay in Santa Paula, it’s likely a good idea they relocate so they can make new friends and find new opportunities.
I learned again this weekend what causes homelessness beside alcohol and drug abuse.
A woman with three children had her water turned off because her family stopped making the monthly payments. There is a back story to that, but while the property was posted with a disconnect notice, the water remained on. She thought the bill had been paid. She came in last Friday with a water bill of over $1,000. Someone called CPS and reported her for living in a home with children with no water, making the dwelling uninhabitable. Thanks to Father Charles at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, we raised the money to get the water back on.
Another single mother with six children, attending school to become an x-ray technician, couldn’t start her car on Friday. We had it tuned up as someone suggested. $184. No luck. We put in a new starter. $139. No luck. Last night we put in a new battery and still no luck. $179. Someone suggested a new ignition which apparently leads to other things and we realized the 1999 car isn’t worth fixing. Her children attend school in another city for several reasons and she has to transport them on her way to school/work.
Another woman working closely with the County to get housing discovered yesterday that her “free government phone” died. There go her contacts and her appointments. She has no way of communicating with the outside world that can rescue her. So we got her a new phone.
The absence of money is one thing; the absence of resources to solve problems is another. Many Meals continues to be the link to fragile people. A woman came in last week who was so anxious to be around people she almost fainted. Fortunately, Ted Perez from Behavioral Health stopped by after work and recognized what was going on. He reached out to her and was able to make an appointment for this week and they connected again today. She came to our food pantry on Saturday and she called today to see if anyone was able to give her $20 so she could pay someone to bring her into town to get food.
The Bible talks a lot about money and how wonderful it is to give it. It is the love of money that traps us, but I have noticed that many are trapped because of it’s absence and scarcity. One seemingly small event can turn a family upside down and jeopardize their ability to pay rent, leading to eventual homelessness.
We can’t buy batteries for every car or pay everyone’s water bills. It seems we are presented with one or two at a time we can help and with some of the angels who hang out with us, we make a difference. Susan Kulwiec, Jill Wallerstedt and I are regularly writing grants to find funds we can use to help stabilize our families and be the safety net they need to get through a day. I just pray their kids grow up to be successful and able to support their parents in later years as a “thank you” for the hard work done in these.
Our work is more than just with those finding shelter in the streets. It extends to the least powerful and most vulnerable in our community.
I am pleased to report the City Council approved forming an Ad Hoc Committee to study and work on the issues of homelessness. They members are Jenny Crosswhite and John Procter, two fresh faces looking at the problems and opportunities and willing to engage the locals on what is being done and must be done.
There is another side to this work that can hurt. Last week, one of the men who lives on the streets as a result of alcohol addiction, has been asking for another phone. He is one who misses appointments, won’t attend the One Stop, consistently asks for bus fare so he can visit people in Ventura and is taking his medication with alcohol. He makes promises he doesn’t keep and sleeps at a local church. He called from the Job and Career Center and challenged me about when I was going to get him his phone. I told him I wanted him to use some of his monthly check to get one. He flared back that “my talk was cheap” and he had no use for me. I told him “thank you” and hung up. I’ve been thinking about that but know he’ll be calling soon when he needs something. This is the test. Will I be there or not?
As we wait the 5 pm hour on Wednesday to serve our nutritious meal, I can’t wait to see who comes to find us.
Our meal tomorrow is beef enchilada casserole with rice from El Pescador, cooked carrots from Garman’s Pub, cole slaw with raisins, croissants and orange slices. Many of our student volunteers have promised to come during the summer. They are the best help.
Thanks for listening.
Our Goal: End Homelessness in Santa Paula
Kay Wilson-Bolton is the volunteer director of SPIRIT of Santa Paula. She can be reached at 805.340.5025.
website is www.spiritofsantapaula.org.
Address is 113 North Mill Street, Santa Paula CA 93060.
Mailing address is: P.O. Box 728, Santa Paula CA 93061-0728
“Serving the least Powerful and Most Vulnerable People in our Community.”