Heaven promises many joys and benefits. One of them is that we will never lose anything for which we have no need–phone chargers, cars, keys, socks, pills or purses. I learned again today why the problems of homelessness cannot be solved in multiples.
It is common for people to lose the things they need to solve their housing crisis. Most of us have our ID handy, can find our social security card and at least know how to get a copy of our birth certificate in short time if needed.
This is just not so with people who don’t carry a purse, have a file cabinet or a file folder. Today was such a day.
We are preparing one of our homeless people for subsidized senior housing. It has taken us three weeks to get a birth certificate, the doctor’s certification, her homeless history verified, her ID card and a phone that works more than two days.
Today was the day for the visit to Social Security. I dropped her off at 8:30 with money for bus fare back home and new charger for her phone. She saw the line and thought not to stay but I told her she had to. She was back at the office by 10:45. I asked her if she was successful and she admitted she was not because she had forgotten to take a copy of her birth certificate, even though the folder was in her hand and she couldn’t remember what name she had on her last card. She also needed her pain medication which she did not have with her.
We will try again, although not tomorrow. I would like to find someone who take her and stay with her as she works through the steps at the social security office.
Their problems can only be solved one person at a time. That is why the work is so hard and it takes so long. People who have lost their shelter lose their orientation to routine. Few of them know for sure what day it is and time has little meaning. They miss doctor’s appointments, deadlines and court appearances.
When life gets this complicated, I can understand why some self-medicate. Then, they don’t care and it’s just easier to get through today.
An interviewer asked me today what percentage of homeless people don’t want to be housed. My guess is 50%. Those who don’t are what I have described above. Rules worry them because it translates to giving up drugs and alcohol.
The other 50% will do the work to get their housing. The work cannot be done in tandem. It’s one event at a time with focused energy on one person at a time. You have to stay with it and cheer the success, however small.
Back to losing things. One of my favorite people has decided that a sober life is too hard. He has been in detox twice in the last twelve months and came back two weeks ago. He found his friends and started with a few beers. He left his back pack with me when he left and completely forgot about it when he came home. He started gathering his things all over again. They all do. They need new blankets every few days because they are stolen. They need sweaters and jackets because they lay them down somewhere when it’s warm. They lose their ID, their phones get stolen and they all want money for bus fare to go somewhere.
Sadly, critics of homeless people in general tend to generalize that homeless people “like it that way.” They forget to focus on the 50% that long for housing.
Now that law enforcement has cleared the river and the tracks, more of them are in and around town. There is no bus to take them somewhere else and they wouldn’t get on it anyway. Every community has their own homeless population. They don’t want ours and we don’t want theirs.
Ideas are being parlayed about homeless shelters. Funding is one problem but the greater one is location. Savings to taxpayers just from redirecting people from emergency care to primary health care would pay for the building, but there is no will to build one. No one wants it near them, but they are near all of us now.
We helped a woman today pay $400 for her room. We heard her story, the details of which I can hardly remember about her losing her green card and then her ID card and her monthly check was diverted somewhere else because she moved twice in a short time. And, she was about to be homeless. We talked to the landlord and she was actually two months behind but he promised to work with her. We usually never help someone who is that far behind and has no way to pay for the next month’s rent. However, when she is standing in front of you with no hope, there is only one thing to do. She is also a good helper at Many Meals.
In case you are one who thinks the solutions are quick and easy, I urge you to either be patient with those working on the problem or provide the help needed to move it along. I am surprised how many people know someone who is or has been homeless. Those who are homeless from an economic crisis can be helped much faster. Substance abuse creates a barrier to a quick solution.
Without our partners at Behavioral Health and the Healthcare Agency, we could not look at any success. They are all amazing. We are missing our clinician, Ted Perez. A serious infection put him in the hospital. We need you, Ted.
Lots of food today from our favorite food bank, Food Share and we will be preparing a nice meal as always, thanks to thoughtful and creative. Tomorrow’s menu is ham casserole with olives, tomatoes, onions, celery and dried blueberries with an artichoke sauce; hot buttered carrots thanks to Garman’s Pub, orange slices, green salad with tomatoes and Cesar dressing, rolls and butter.
We put about 30,000 pounds of food back into the community last month, thanks to our School District. We rescued so much food. We will miss them for the summer months.
Thanks to all for the encouraging notes and your willingness to listen to the other side of the story — the human side.
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.”