When the Bridges Burn – News and View from Many Meals – Week No. 481 – April 11, 2018

Some of you know that our daily visitors at the Drop In Center are people who are homeless. They become a part of our lives and we know their stories. We learned this week the homeless count in Santa Paula is up this year — as it is in every city in the County.  Why is that?

In the years before the economy began to rebound, people who were homeless as a result of economic challenges, that started with the job loss that unraveled everything, were the easiest to redeem. If they could get a job, they could find a place or room to rent. Not so now, particularly since the Thomas Fire. The rental shortage is significant and rents have greatly increased.  A typical $500 room for rent is now $800 minimum.  The cost to get into a one bedroom apartment can be $3000 or more with deposits

By seeing them every day at the Drop-In Center we get to know their stories. It’s astonishing how many of our people who are homeless are from Santa Paula. They were born and raised here, have kids, siblings, parents and grandparents. You would think that someone in that group of people would take them in, wouldn’t you?

Their stories are filled with sorrow. They are told either in anger, disgust or matter-of-factly. The stories range from a drunken parent, addiction in the home, unemployment, to abuse and neglect. Many took to the streets early in life to find fellowship and respect.

Many stories state they became addicts at early ages. We have several situations where a parent and adult child are homeless together, living in cars.

One story is of a 30 year old girl who was abused by uncles in her own home from the time she was 10 and it continued until she was 16. She ran away from home, became an addict, has several children being cared for by family members, both parents are sick and have adult children living at home with their own children. She wrote bad checks on the accounts of family members, stole the rent money and all but dropped out of school.  She is trying to kick drugs but has a boyfriend who is also an addict, and they sleep in various places, never the same place two nights in a row.

Another wanders the streets by day and hides at night. She has mental challenges and lacks awareness of personal hygiene and self-control.  Her parents are in another city nearby. They give her $50 each week and pay her rent. They are also her payee and she receives $950 per month.  She is  lonely, talks to herself and acts out in various troubling ways. The police regularly stop her.

Another is transgender and lives in a tent in an obscure place. She had a good job and was a well-known hair stylist. She is from Santa Paula and so is her family. No one will take her in.

A young man loved his years in high school. Good student, popular in his class at Santa Paula High School. In his senior year, he learned to love the taste of beer. His parents are in town and he is on the street. There were many tries to take him home and make it work. The drinking doesn’t stop so he wanders the streets half-dressed. He now has a beard and hardly recognizable

We have two brothers who live on the street separately. Their mother just died and so there no one–not even among their seven brothers and sisters to take them in. Too much drama, too many lies, too much stolen money and too much disruption in the household. Their future is on the streets until illness or accident takes them.

One senior citizen has a small dog and spends her days sitting in her storage unit at a local storage facility. She needs surgery to correct a serious bone break. Her parents live in town and she has three adult children–and she is homeless? Over the last two days, she was contacted by four County social workers trying to connect her with housing opportunities.

One young man regularly has seizures. He sits daily in a public place hoping for a few bucks to get through the day. His parents live in town.

 

You can only how bad it must have been for al doors to close and remain sealed.  So, what to do?

Shun them? Isolate them? Ignore them? Feed them to reduce panhandling? Give them basic necessities to ease the pay of the day and discourage stealing?

The best answer is to connect with them. Be the warm fire they are drawn to so they can be directed. The work of SPIRIT of Santa Paula isn’t the solution, but the people are part of the answer. We are uniquely positioned to be the initial link to help. Most will never make an appointment at the Mental Health Clinic, but they will let social workerss and mental health clinicians come to the Drop-In Center, and over a cup of coffee make a plan.

Oddly enough, the three men who consistently sit at the off-ramps of Palm and 10th will not connect with us. We don’t really know them except we know their problems. All three are from Santa Paula and one had very prominent parents, both are gone now.

How bad must it have been so they cannot go home again. I have heard their stories and in many cases, the bridges they once walked on have been burned.

Easy for me to say, but one of the solutions to ending homelessness is to encourage people to forgive those who have hurt them and for their families to be forgiven when hurt has occurred.. I’ve had the privilege of driving some of them home to help initiate good dialogue. I have witnessed the massive amounts of hurt and pain that gets shouted in both directions.  Without forgiveness and forgetting, they really can’t go home again.

So, what to do? They need a place to gather and they need someone to talk to. That is how our days go.  Thanks to the wonderful social workers and clinicians with Whole Person Care in the Ventura County Healthcare Agency, we see changes.  Where there are kind words, there is hope. Where there is no judgment, there is relationship. That is when change can begin.

This world is very hard, and there is much sorrow and sadness. Imagine feeling all that alone, in the dark and believing there is no hope. That is the beginning of the endless cycle of homelessness. Without hope, the people perish.

That’s a wrap.

Our famous spaghetti meat and pineapple sauce is being served tomorrow with cole slaw, rolls and butter, cooked carrots and orange slices. Thanks to my friend Karen Campbell for rescuing many pounds of radishes and fresh beets right off the farm from Food Forward.  Trucks and tarps are part of our gear these days.  Lots of food tomorrow for the pantry. You can visit us on www.facebook.com/ManyMeals

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 http://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.”

 

The Good Neighbor Award 2017

 

Remember – They are People Who Are Homeless: Week 479 on March 28, 2018.

I “went to school” this past week at the emergency shelter for our people who are homeless. What I learned is that I must cease referring to them as “homeless people”, as my friend Jane Lax, once reminded me.

They are “people who are homeless” because they are as unique as any one of us who is not. Therefore, they must be treated one at a time. No one great plan will work for all of them, and likely even most of them.

Most of my unsheltered friends either long to have a pet or have one. Those who have pets, usually dogs, will make sure the animal is warm and eats before they do.

Thanks to our Santa Paula City Council members, City Manager, Michael Rock, and Community Services Director, Ed Mount, we were able to host an emergency shelter for those who are homeless during the storm last week in the Cultural Arts Building behind the Community Center. We served a total of 42 unduplicated people.  Many thanks to my volunteers Howard Stephen, Luis Cantero, Maria Sanchez and Bessie Crowell. We know how to sleep with one eye open.

One of the guests at the shelter had a little dog with kennel cough. I’ll call the owner Chris to avoid using real names and identifying male or female.

The dog coughed all day and all night and the owner stayed awake most of the night on a phone that didn’t work.  And, there was constant chatter between the Chris and another guest. Chris had been in the hospital for several days, and the dog was fostered by a kind person who even offered to provide a surgical procedure on a tumor on the dog’s leg. The owner refused the surgery and felt the dog would get better on his own.  On Friday, my Howard took the owner and the dog to our vet who prescribed an inexpensive, over the counter medicine for the cough.

We closed the shelter on Friday and didn’t see Chris again until Monday at the drop in center. The dog was much worse. I asked if the dog had been receiving the recommendation and was told that taking care of the dog was her business, not mine.

I went back to the vet’s office and got the Amoxicillin, a common antibiotic and took it back to Chris who refused to administer it. The dog was in great distress and coughing constantly. We had serious words about neglect, duty and cruelty. I told Chris if the dog was not treated, I would report the situation to Animal Control. Chris left the office in a fit of bad language. I went to SPARC (our no-kill shelter) to get some advice and Donovan, the Animal Control Officer, happened to be there. He had received my message and knew who I was referring to. Chris had been at SPARC before and caused a scene there over the dog’s care. He stated he could issue a citation for neglect — if he finds them.

I know not where they are tonight. I don’t know how long the dog can survive in that condition. It is very disheartening to know that Chris has the medicine needed to provide the cure and out of stubbornness is withholding it.

This is an example of someone not thinking normally, and while I would not casually use the term mental illness, the behavior is characteristic of someone who suffers from it. I don’t know what it will take to reach Chris to provoke care for this animal. Chris has been on the street for a year, extremely thin, but has not seen before now. So, what plan?

Remember the Michael of last week’s email, who I found on the street and gave him $10 to come in out of rain? He settled down on a cot reading a book on witchcraft. After lights were out he began talking to someone and after repeated and polite requests to go to sleep and be quiet, he got mad and left. His behavior was alarming me a little, so I called the police and asked them to come by. They saw him leaving the building on their approach and had a chance to talk to him. Michael lives on the very east end of town and known to the police. He is a loner, does not like to be around people and is very easily agitated. When he is confronted, he becomes very combative.

I realized I compelled him to come into an environment in which is not comfortable and his subsequent behavior, common for him but a mystery to us, made all of us wary of possibilities.

He is another example of being a person who is homeless and not part of the homeless population. Therefore, needs to be treated as unique and as an individual.

The lesson for me is that I need to see them as individuals and not as a group of people with similarities other than they don’t have a home.  When I do that better, I can help him or her much better and they may get ready to live the life God designed for them.  I’m sure we can all agree that no one is ever sentenced to a life on the streets. The right resources are there. We just need to make the connection.

The clinicians and social workers and administrative staff at Ventura County Health Care Agency are so amazing. They are “The Connection” and they are here in town every Friday doing just that at El Buen Pastor Church, 1029 E. Santa Paula Street.

Shea from Tisa’s Salon was at One Stop last Friday giving haircuts to any and all.  The visiting number was the highest at 22 last week and because many were at the shelter, we were able to shuttle them to One Stop. Now, I think we need a 12-passenger van to shuttle regular. They can’t be helped if transportation is a barrier.

My friends and SPIRIT board members, John and Susan Kulwiec, have taken on the role of grant exploration to see what is out there in the way of funding. Jill Wallerstedt was instrument in completing our Community Development Block Grant application with the County of Ventura.

What I also long for is a storage unit where we could house supplies and household items donated to us.  Largely so I can clear my office but so we know where everything is. Any ideas are welcome.

My Realtor® colleague, Karen Campbell, picked up0 and delivered the most amazing array of mangos, Kiwi, bell peppers and vegetables from Food Forward in Simi Valley today. What a pantry it will be.

Dinner tomorrow is mashed potatoes, shepherd’s pie with carrots from Garman’s Pub, peas, celery, green bell pepper, onions and corn, fresh strawberries, salad rolls and butter.   Last week the rain stopped during Many Meals. We only planned for 300 but ended up making about 100 more meals.

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 http://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.”

The Good Neighbor Award 2017

 

When a Homeless Man Finds a Home – Week 478 on March 14, 2018.

SPIRIT of Santa Paula is committed to ending homelessness.

Something great happened this past week to meet that goal. There is a new housing program designed for homeless seniors, at least 62 years old with a documented disability. It was not an easy task to get him approved. The questions now are whether or not he will be able to marry his long-time girlfriend who is only 60 so they can live together. And, will he be able to continue dog-sitting her dog during the day while she works at a part-time job?

The task of finding a homeless person over 62 years old with a documented disability who does not have a criminal background, who doesn’t have substance abuse in his past or present and is sweet and even-tempered is not easy. This effort took eight letters of recommendation, two letters from his doctor and the nod from the Chief of Police.  We are told the unit will be ready at the end of March.

There are several bright sides to this story. One there will be one less homeless person to worry about. One is a lot when you’re the one, right?

Tanya is a female about 46 years old who lives at the river and picks lemons right alongside the men.  Her teeth have become so infected and loose that she can hardly eat.  I’m happy to report that she was fitted for dentures this week and will let me show you her picture before and after.  I just know they are going to be amazing. She is the biggest fan of the Care Pod shower program. When she talks about her hot shower she closes her eyes recalling the uplifting feeling that comes with feeling clean and fresh.

I can’t thank the wonderful people at the Ventura Health Care Agency enough for being a partner is caring for the whole person with a Santa Paula zip code.  Sincere thanks to Woody and Vern for the fabulous piece of equipment and the County  personnel who make their way to the host church, El Buen Pastor, each Friday to meet and greet our homeless visitors.

Then there is Tom from the Drug and Alcohol Division of Whole Person Care who visits the Drop-In Center making friends with those who have had too much to drink or are high. One guest has already asked for help and rehab.  Without Tom checking in on him, it wouldn’t have happened in the same way.

A local angel provided a supply of tarps and ponchos for wet weather use.  Once the homeless get wet, they stay that way until a change of clothes is made available. Many of them get sick and use the emergency room for the primary physician care.  SPIRIT is going to ask the County to commission a study on the cost of health care for the homeless population. I know that the cost of housing is much cheaper.

Food Rescue from the School District is making a big difference on the amount of wasted food being dumped into the landfills. We are able to serve much more commercially prepared food. Whatever you think of global warming, the impact of organic material in the landfill cannot be dismissed.  Here are some interesting links.

An important part of the California Department of Resources Recycling is Organic Materials Management 

Recovery’s mission is to increase the diversion of organic materials away from landfills and toward the production of value-added products such as compost, fertilizers, and biofuels.

Organic waste accounts for more than a third of the material in California’s waste stream. Greenhouse gas emissions caused by the decomposition of organic material in landfills contribute to global climate change. Reducing the amount of organic material sent to landfills is part of the AB 32 (California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006) Scoping Plan, is fundamental to ARB’s Short Lived Climate Pollutant strategy, and is one of California’s strategies for reaching the statewide 75 percent recycling goal. Collecting and processing organic materials, particularly food, is also the focus of AB 1826, which mandates such efforts beginning April 1, 2016.

To stay informed on the latest information on organics issues, sign up for email updates by joining a CalRecycle listserv, such as “Organics Materials Management,” “Conversion Technologies,” or “Climate Change.”

Our meal tomorrow is Chicken Enchilada Casserole, hot buttered carrots from Garman’s Pub, Orange slices, chips, rice from El Pescador.   When it’s cold, fewer of the river people come top side, but we see them the next day at the Drop-In Center.  We are good with that.

Our Goal:  End Homelessness in Santa Paula  

When you shop Amazon, go to www.smile.amazon.com and specify SPIRIT of Santa Paula as your preferred charity. We are a 501C3 corporation.  EIN 27-0005506.

Donations are welcome at our website and facebook pages.

Kay Wilson-Bolton is the volunteer director of SPIRIT of Santa Paula.  She can be reached at 805.340.5025.

website is http://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.”

The Good Neighbor Award 2017

 

 

 

A Homeless Person In a Child’s Eyes – Week 477 on March 7, 2018.

While our goal is to end homeless in Santa Paula, you’ve heard me say many times that Many Meals is much more than a weekly hot meal for some our most vulnerable and least powerful people. It has been about connecting with people who are hungry, facing hardships and are homeless. We believe if we continue to do this work, we will help people through hard times and eliminate homelessness from our community.

We just found an angel who had four bicycles repaired. We have gifted them to certain people with the written agreement the bicycle will not be sold.

We found an angel who has agreed to cover the cost to hire a fundraising organization to help us secure reliable funding for our programs.

Another angel has offered to donate small parcels of land in the Cuyama Valley for us to sell and use for our services.

On particular unintended gift to our community has been the involvement of so many of our youth in this work of serving, loving, caring and respecting people from the most generally neglected and despised segment of any population. Each week, 20 to 30 students join us to prepare and serve food and clean our kitchen. They don’t have to come and only a handful are doing it for community service credits from school programs.

Recently, a parent shared with me the writing of her young teen after her experience at Many Meals. It was to complete a school assignment.

She wrote:

“My task for this week was to take a fork and spoon and wrap it in a napkin, handing it to the guests as they come by for their meal. It told them my family and I would pray for them and that God is with them.

 My service showed God’s love in action in many ways. First, I showed the homeless that there weren’t alone and I cared about them. Second, while I was serving them, I told them about God a little and said that He loved them no matter what they did.

 Third, I did what I think God would want me to do by helping the homeless improve instead of criticizing, making fun of them or just staring at them. I don’t think God wants us to just pity the homeless, but to see that they need help and then actually help them.”

That is enough for tonight. Like I said, Wednesday is more than Many Meals.

Tomorrow’s meal is lots of ham and cheese casserole, romaine lettuce salad with tomatoes, rolls, and orange slices.

Kay Wilson-Bolton is the volunteer director of SPIRIT of Santa Paula.  She can be reached at 805.340.5025.

Our Goal:  End Homelessness in Santa Paula  

website is http://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.”

The Good Neighbor Award 2017

 

 

“When Showers Come to Santa Paula” – Week 476 at Many Meals on February 28, 2018

Ninety days ago, I had a tiny vision of what it could be like to offer hot showers to a group of homeless people who could also see a health care professional, receive information on Medi-cal, get help for substance abuse, infections, aches and pain, receive a lunch, clean socks and underwear, a haircut and encouragement.

Last Friday, the vision became an amazing reality as the “Leadership Eagles” in Ventura County and Santa Paula gathered at a humble church location to dedicate the Care Pod and launch the One Stop Program which is part of the Whole Person Care program for the benefit of Santa Paula’s homeless population.

Welcoming almost 100 people in the church parking lot was Pastor Pablo Rovere of the El Buen Pastor United Methodist Church, where the Care Pod is located. Attending the ceremony were Supervisor Kelly Long; Dr. Johnson Gill, Director of the Ventura County Health Care Agency; Mike Powers, Chief Executive Officer of the County of Ventura; Dr. John Schipper, Adult Division Chief Ventura County Behavioral Health, City Manager Michael Rock; Santa Paula Council Members John Procter, Clint Garman, Jenny Crosswhite and Martin Hernandez; Police Chief Steve McLean and Sergeants Walt Harper and Scott Varner; Fire Chief Rick Araiza and SPIRIT of Santa Paula Board Members and volunteers.

Santa Paula was chosen to be the site of the first Care Pod. These units are constructed by the WoodStock Company owned in partnership by retired Fire Chief Vern Alstot and Woody Bouska.  Volunteers John Lopez and Rick Carney from Catalyst Church in Santa Paula open and close the pods each Friday. Jill Wallerstedt, Melinda While and Petey Reyna welcome guests and hand out supplies and gifts. Friends of the El Buen Pastor United Methodist Church help with snacks and provide support and encouragement for the guests including Louise Vega, Nicey Cabral and Laura Hernandez.

You can’t say thanks enough. You just can’t. Remember that the goal is to end homelessness in Santa Paula.

 

On other notes:  Ray is back in town after a 30-day stay recovering in a care facility after an emotional breakdown.  He looks so good and is feeling good about himself. The very bad news is that he was discharged to the streets. This is the first step in a setback. We have to provide transitional housing or  there will not be an end to homelessness. It’s very simple. The STAR had a significant editorial on this topic after the propane heater exploded at River Haven this week killing the occupant of the dome. It shouldn’t happen and it’s tragic.

The Homeless Count will be completed tomorrow and we did a better job of finding more of our people rather than limiting the count to one day at one point in time. Thanks to the volunteers for making that happen.

Food Rescue is alive and well thanks to Public Health Director Robert Levin. Another planning meeting was held this week with many good partners participating like Food Share, Food Forward, Project Understanding, and various County agencies.  CalRecyle awarded a $750,000 grant to help stop putting organic material in landfills and reduce greenhouse gases.  This link provides a very educational instruction on the topic: http://www.calrecycle.ca.gov/climate/organics/

Finally, the best news ever came today when one of our homeless men over 62 with a documented disability was awarded a housing voucher where he can live out his days in clean and safe housing. It is part of the Pathways to Home Project. Six units in Santa Paula have been designated for this category. They are the new units on 12th Street.

Tomorrow’s menu will be our famous ham and baked beans, rice from El Pescador, green salad with tomatoes, veggies including carrots from Garman’s Pub, warm tortillas  and orange slices. Thanks to Tom and Hank for helping out at Food Share today.

As always, Wednesdays are more than Many Meals. There are many people to minister to and serve.

Next Week “A Homeless Person in a Child’s eye

Kay Wilson-Bolton is the volunteer director of SPIRIT of Santa Paula.  She can be reached at 05.340.5025.   website is http://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.”

The Good Neighbor Award 2017

 

 

​ “Dying in the Streets With Your Rights On” – Week 475 at Many Meals – February 22, 2018

I commend an article to you about the sufferings of homeless people with a mental illness. It was written by Lloyd I. Sederer, MD   “Dying In the Streets With Your Rights on” .He is a psychiatrist and treated many patients.

Linda Bishop was found dead, presumably from starvation and hypothermia, in a home she had broken into in New Hampshire several months after she had a two-year psychiatric hospitalization. Her last journal notation was in January 2008, and her body was accidently discovered in May.

Neither Bishop’s sister, a longtime advocate for her (who works in the justice system) whom a court years earlier declined to make Bishop’s legal guardian, nor Bishop’s daughter were informed of her condition during her extended stay in New Hampshire’s state hospital — nor were they told when she was discharged. Instead, a fantasy relationship that Bishop had for years in her head, with no contact with the man was her plan for support, even marriage, upon leaving the hospital.

“The story of Linda Bishop’s multiple psychiatric hospitalizations, her misdemeanor (non-violent) offenses and time in jail, her abandonment of her teenage daughter, her assertion that she was not mentally ill and her refusal to follow any treatment plan, the lack of evidence that she could care for herself, and the self-imposed distance from her family was all too familiar to me and my colleagues working in public mental health, even if the details of her situation may vary in some ways from others. Recognized experts (and longtime colleagues) Drs. Tom Gutheil and Paul Appelbaum in 1979 (!) aptly called this type of tragedy “rotting with their rights on.”

 Our laws stipulate that Bishop had to consent to provide information to her family, which she did not. Privacy violations would have been the consequence of the hospital contacting her family during the hospital stay or at the time of discharge. Bishop’s “right” to live where (and how) she wanted derives from legal rulings that stipulate a person’s right to live in what is called “the least restrictive setting.” The letter of the law had been met. And the patient died.”

We see this developing in many of our people and have seen deaths as the result of people not able to do for themselves. We have to do better.

A part of doing better will be revealed on Friday morning at 9 am and you are all welcome to attend.  The Ventura County Healthcare Agency is hosting a ceremony to introduce and officially launch the latest effort in their Whole Person Care Program. The Care Pod/Shower facilities will be open for viewing along with the Islas Mobile Care Unit which serves the Santa Paula homeless population every Friday. It is the new One-Stop Center for preventative care and addresses mental and physical health issues.

It will be at the site of the Care Pod at El Buen Pastor United Methodist Church, 1029 E. Santa Paula Street in Santa Paula.

Please join us for a brief program. You will meet our Supervisor, Kelly Long; Ventura County CEO Mike Powers, Ventura County Health Care Agency Director, Dr. Jackson Gill, and many others who made this possible.  It is a dream come true for a small organization like the SPIRIT of Santa Paula and a small church to be a part of such a magnificent program that adds quality to the life of many people every Friday.

The Homeless Count is this Thursday, February 22, 2018 starting at 6 am. If you are interested in helping, call me at 805.3340..5025.  There is a final training on Wednesday, tomorrow February 21, from 3’30 to 4:30 pm, at the administration building of the Ventura County Government Center, 800 South Victoria, Fourth Floor, Pt. Mugu Conference Room.

If you want to participate in the Santa Paula Count, please register at the United Way’s volunteer site  http://www.volunteerventuracounty.org/aem/general/event/?doc_id=4649.

We will meet at 8:30 am in Santa Paula at 113 North Mill Street for assignments. If anyone would like to help count at Many Meals tomorrow night, please come at 4:30 pm, 121 Davis Street.

To our menu. Food Share had a great supply of hot dog buns today so we will be serving the ever-popular all-beef dogs from Costco, Spanish rice from El Pescador, fresh cook carrots supplied by Garman’s Pub, chips, orange slices and romaine salad with tomatoes and sesame dressing.

Next week:  A homeless person in a child’s eyes.

Kay Wilson-Bolton is the volunteer director of SPIRIT of Santa Paula.  She can be reached at 05.340.5025.

website is http://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.”

 

The Good Neighbor Award 2017

 

Loving Those Rascals and Knuckleheads -Week 474 – February 14, 2018 – Valentine’s Day

“The test of love is in how one relates not to saints and scholars but to rascals.” — Abraham Joshua Heschel

I don’t know the author of that statement, but I would like to know what prompted him to write that. We will be passing out Valentines tomorrow to our guests at Many Meals in honor of the day.

I understand what it must be like for missionaries who come back to the US after serving in third world countries. They return to their former homes with new perspectives on first world problems. They have to adjust to the myriad levels of conversation of the day, the influences of advertising and commerce, the abundance of every conceivable commodity and the waste that goes with prosperity.

I feel that way often when I attend a banquet, a community meeting or celebration after spending a day with people on the margins of life, who expect a lot and give nothing. Others expect nothing and believe the life they live is as good as it can get.

Of late, I am jolted in the morning hours at the Drop-in Center by the pungent smell of wood-burning smoke in the clothes of those who have slept under the 12th street bridge where they build fires to keep warm. It’s not the pleasant smell of a campfire or that of oak wood in the fireplace. It’s sharp and penetrating. They promise every day to be at the new One-Stop on Friday, provided by the Ventura County Health Care Agency, where they can see a nurse, take a hot shower in the Care Pod, get clean clothes and visit with various health and social service professionals. Soon they will be able to get a haircut, thanks to Shea who works at Tisa’s Salon here in Santa Paula.

Daily life like this is damaging. It soon becomes their normal and out of sadness and depression comes the influence of drugs and alcohol. What comes first is different for each one. For some, it was the military first, then the alcohol. Others it was job loss first and others it was broken families. For some it was drug and alcohol use which turned into a sour and reckless life.

Whatever the story, Someone has to love them into wholeness. It’s hard because some want what they can get from us. Others often beg for help but want me to do the hard work of sobriety. They are the only ones who can do that part.

Ruth Sullivan called me this weekend begging me to help her find a place to live. She is 76 years old and has an income of $1200 per month. She is living in Oxnard and renting a room from a family who is being evicted. I have stressed over finding her a place. Today Connie De La Rosa, from Catholic Social Charities, called to state she has a room for rent in Oxnard and wanted to know if I knew anyone. Isn’t that great? They are meeting up tomorrow. One more off the list, but it’s a long one.

The threat of rain is hard on food rescue. Not sure to make the trip and risk drenching or wait it out. I long for an enclosed refrigerated van if anyone happens to have an extra one. 

Food Share’s Pam Castro called today with dozens and dozens of five gallon containers of ice cream. Hard to turn that down but we have no place to put it or distribute it.  One would be okay but not 100. Imagine someone over-making that much ice cream.

Fundraising – Susan Kulwiec has taken on the taken of helping me write grants for our work. There are so many out there but we have a very specialized service and population. You can help if you will designate SPIRIT of Santa Paula when you shop on Amazon. However, you have to enter through http://www.smileamazon.com.

Homeless Seniors: We are close to getting approved for one homeless senior, over 62 with a documented disability being approved for a special Section 8 housing voucher.  Background checks are not their friend. It’s hard for someone with those three attributes to have lived an impeccable life. Many people have written letters of support. We will know for sure this week. If you pray about things like that, please do.

The Count of Homeless Persons 2018 event sign-up page is on the Volunteer Ventura County website. This activity is an education in itself. You will be safe and with us. Please click this link to volunteer. Training will on Saturday, February 18, 2018 at 9 am. You can volunteer at:

http://www.volunteerventuracounty.org/aem/general/event/?doc_id=4649

Free Eye Glasses:  Thanks to the amazing work of the Lions Club and the cooperation of members at the Church of Christ, free exams and prescription glasses will be given on Saturday, Feb 17 from 8 am to 2 pm at Santa Paula Church of Christ, 276 W. Santa Paula Street. Call Ken Ary 805.201.5929 or Al Learn 805.525.8566. Tell someone.

Tomorrow’s menu is beef and cheese casserole, rolls, buttered cooked carrots, romaine lettuce salad and tomatoes with orange wedges. It’s hearty and delicious.

Tune in next week for “Dying in the Streets With Your Rights On.” Redefining “gravely disabled homeless.”

Kay Wilson-Bolton is the volunteer director of SPIRIT of Santa Paula.  She can be reached at 805.340.5025.   website is http://www.spiritofsantapaula.org.

Address is 113 North Mill Street, Santa Paula CA 93060.

“Serving the least Powerful and Most Vulnerable People in our Community.”

 

I want them to love me – Week 473 at Many Meals on February 7, 2018

After these nearly 10 years of living with and learning from those who have made their way in life in some fashion of homelessness, I think I know most of them pretty well. Once in a while they surprise when we come at odds with each other. My stories are true, but details are re-characterized so I am not breaching confidences and protecting the innocent–and the guilty.

This week it came in odd ways. I confronted one who was gossiping about me to his colleagues about something that was so manufactured it had to be addressed. I did so privately and very directly. I wasn’t mad. I was asking a question about what he said. He got so mad that he said he was never coming back to the Drop In Center and he would just do his “own thing.” That was a week ago.

He called to today to state he would pay me on the 10th the $70 he borrowed for his car registration. He also asked me for someone’s phone number. Guess he’s not mad after all, and I made sure he knew I was happy to hear from him. His life is messed up and one day, I pray it won’t be. He didn’t get this way overnight either.

Another person served a few days in jail for a warrant. When she was taken in, she asked me to keep her bicycle for her. A few hours later her roommate came to retrieve it. This is someone she lives with and has known for many years–also known well to us.

We handed the bicycle over without a thought, but the roommate sold it. Of course, the owner is furious and not sure who to be mad it but it started with me for giving away the bicycle. This is a little complicated, right? We are trying to get the bicycle back but meanwhile I have the cold shoulder from a few.

There is always tension around 5 pm when they come to the drop-in center and want dinner. Clearly it will be a long night if their last meal was at 10 am. Thanks to Food Rescue program, we generally have fresh food of some kind, like sandwiches, fresh fruit, packaged hamburgers or burritos. We try to accommodate but can’t always meet the need due to our own work schedules.

A program we have to put in place is providing porta potties in the downtown area so the homeless population has a place to go to the bathroom. Everyone’s hates pee and poop in the wrong places. As long as we are dealing with the challenges of having homeless people in our midst, we have to do what we can to make a bad situation less bad until they are homeless no more. Chief McLean and I have identified four spots where porta-potties can be placed along with a trash bin. It would cost about $1300 per month to provide the units and service them weekly. It’s a program that needs a little money.

To entice more of our homeless population to take advantage of the healthcare services and showers on Friday from 10-12:30 at El Buen Pastor Church (1029 E. Santa Paula Street), we are working with a local hairdresser to give free haircuts… after their shower. That would put a bow around the “Whole Person Care” program of the Ventura County Healthcare Agency.

The Homeless County is set for Thursday, February 22 from 6 am to 2. We can also count at our various events not held on that day. Unfortunately, that helps us get a higher count but we want it to be accurate. Funding from Federal programs are based on our numbers. If you would like to volunteer, let me know. We will have a training program on Friday, February 16 at 9 am at 113 N. Mill Street. We are counting electronically this year! Bring you IPads and Smart Phones.

Food Share had 120 lbs of cooked ham today and we just happen to have 100 dozen eggs, so we will serve the fabulous quiche recipe again with fresh tomatoes, onions, celery, cheddar cheese, milk and salsa seasoning; complimented by fresh cooked carrots, romaine lettuce salad, orange slices, rolls and butter. This meal gets lots of thank you’s.  Hats off to the cooks who make it all happen.

We have a number of people working off traffic fines by volunteering at Many Meals. It’s a major bonus for them because they get to meet some of the world’s best people and serve some of the best guests.

Thank you to all who participate and encourage us. Someday, I hope to report that homelessness in Santa Paula is no more​ and I could look back and believe they all loved us in some way.​

Kay Wilson-Bolton is the volunteer director of the SPIRIT of Santa Paula who advocates for the least powerful and most vulnerable people in Santa Paula. www.spiritofsantapaula.org  805.340.5025

 

 

 

 

When the Neighborhood Gets Cranky – Week 472 on January 31, 2018

We lost another homeless person this past week. Eddy Newman was sleeping at the tracks and was found not responsive. Paramedics could not revive him. He was only 30 years old. His mother and grandmother live in our community. We are very sad about this as he was a helper at the Drop-In Center.

Not unlike our own neighborhoods, when something looks like it could change or innovators get out of line or someone crosses their turf line, it goes the same way in the outlying areas of our community where the homeless population lives.

They refer to each other by where they sleep. “They are at the tracks” or “They are at the lower river.” They tell stories on each other and love the gossip of who did what and who was arrested yesterday. There is rivalry and suspicion of the other camps. It is a sad commentary of how some live their lives. After a time, they view it as normal and don’t see themselves living any other way.

One of our reasons for serving this population is that for a time with us during the day at the Drop-In Center or at Many Meals, they get a soft touch and kind words. It brings them back to what many of them knew as children or before drugs and alcohol became what they worship. They also listen to the news. They were intent on the Thomas Fire, the tragedy in Montecito and always on national news.

Street life is hard and ugly. It’s a constant search for money for a fix or the big beer and burrito. With us, they don’t have to worry about food or bus passes for court appearances, and as a result, I think there is less panhandling. But, stealing is a way of life and they are always protecting their back backs, blankets and phones. Every day we hear a plea for another blanket, lotion, water bottles and small amounts of cash. Daily, we lose hand soap dispensers, toilet paper, and napkins.

In case you wondered, there is a rotation for who gets the hot spot at the bottom of the 10th street exit. One of them tends to sleep through his shift.

A number of our unsheltered friends are working at making things right by the law by completing community service hours. I signed off today on a completion of over 300 hours. It took her two years to do it but she did it. Whenever they start, they feel like it’s hopeless. We always take them in for assignments and they soon begin to see the wisdom of the work. They like being needed and making new friends, and before long they see the results of their good work and intentions. I tell them it’s like going on a diet. Soon those uneaten calories add up!

Last week at Many Meals, we adopted the sweet task of learning the names of our guests. Our volunteers are so amazing. There are several children from 6 to 10; many teenagers from Santa Paula High School and St. Augustine Academy, community members and leaders.  I often look around the room and see the charming variety of humanity comprised of grandmas with little ones, families in after work, and very senior men eating alone and eating generously. I wonder where they came from and how did their paths and ever cross mine? There are numerous connections for those in need with a variety of available services.

Our meals are fabulous. The 8-9 cooks who gather at noon on Wednesdays take my recipe and ingredients and make it theirs. Many of our student volunteers eat together in the dining room before they go home. That’s a testimony to the cooks, right?

Our Mental Health Moment from Dr. Miller was about eating properly and balancing food intake, relating it to the ravages of anorexia, binge eating and purging.  I have three homeless women who are on the verge of this disorder. Offering food is not always the right answer. So, we offer ourselves.

Showers – Jill Wallerstedt and Melinda White assist the County Healthcare Agency in offering weekly showers.  There are 8 – 12 weekly faithful attendees. This number will grow when warmer weather arrives. There will be a grand opening for the public to see what we are doing on Friday, February 23 at 9 am. Please come. It is located at 1029 E. Santa Paula Street, at El Buen Pastor United Methodist Church.

The Count of Homeless Persons 2018 event sign-up page is now on the Volunteer Ventura County website. This activity is an education in itself. You will be safe and with us. Please click this link to volunteer on Thursday, February 22 from 6 am to 1 pm.  View: http://www.volunteerventuracounty.org/aem/general/event/?doc_id=4649

Free Eye Glasses:  Thanks to the amazing work of the Lions Club and the cooperation of members at the Church of Christ, free exams and prescription glasses will be given on Saturday, Feb 17 from 8 am to 2 pm at Santa Paula Church of Christ, 276 W. Santa Paula Street. Call Ken Ary 805.201.5929 or Al Learn 805.525.8566.

Food Share was on alert today with a major food inspection of their facilities. We came home with 1200 lbs of food and spent $8. Lots of melons, Meyer lemons, romaine, potatoes, oranges, pears, rolls, muffins, pastries among other foods.

While it will be warm tomorrow, we are serving cold chicken curry pasta with olives, sweet relish, raisins, celery and onions. Hot buttered carrots with a brown sugar orange glaze, rolls and butter, romaine lettuce salad with tomatoes.

You really should join us. It’s my weekly adventure into a very special world of service.

Don’t forget to name SPIRIT of Santa Paula when you shop on www.smile.amazon.com. Thanks for reading and caring about what we do.​

​“When a homeless person dies” – Lessons learned from Many Meals, Week 471 on January 24, 2018

The death of a homeless person is a different kind of story than the death of someone with next of kin to claim the body and bring it to an appropriate conclusion. There are some cases where a family member steps up to that task and reimburses the County for services given, such as cremation. In other cases, they go unclaimed and are cremated, generally buried together in a common grave.

On Saturday, January 27, 2018, people will gather in Plaza Park in Downtown Ventura to honor 55 homeless people who died in Ventura alone during 2017.  It is the 12th Annual Memorial for reflection, inspiration music and refreshments.  The Unitarian Universalist Church of Ventura has taken the lead in this worthy endeavor. For more information, call 818.281.6249, or http://www.liftupyourvoice.org.

There were five deaths of homeless people that I know of in Santa Paula in 2017.  It’s not a good ending for them, and it’s not the way to end homelessness. These people died from untreated illnesses and undiagnosed ailments. Some due to violence and another due to improper living conditions after hospital discharge. Homeless friends always want to gather and have someone say something.  They will always find something good to say. Always.

In a different circumstance, and equally sad, is when a homeless person hears of the death of a family member while in jail or sometime after the event. When they are in jail, the Chaplain will make notification after they have confirmed the death with the Medical Examiner.

In one case this week, I saw the depths of grief the likes of which are hard to imagine or describe. To protect my friend, I will say “Chris” which could be male or female and refer to Chris as “they/them”.

Chris has been on the streets of Santa Paula for many years, more than 10. Chris called me on Sunday to take them to the ER for an eye injury. I knew that Chris’ mother had died in a local rest home and the funeral was the next day. Chris knew they had to be at the service but they were sick, injured, and filthy and it would be hard to get cleaned up and sober for the memorial.

I called a family member to let them know Chris was at the hospital and they said they would pick them up and take them home. It would be better to start the preparation process the night before. The next day at the service Chris was not there and nowhere to be found. Chris came to the drop-in center crying, mad and lamenting the missed funeral. In doing so, Chris was punching their face and lying on the table.  There are years of guilt from stealing, lying and making messes layered on that table and no way to say “I’m sorry”.

Today, the Fire Department was called to Chris’ location but Chris would not agree to be transported to the hospital. Captain Arana called me and said Chris wanted me to take responsibility for that. By the time I arrived, Chris had disappeared. Even now, Chris is not at the usual places. I fear what I will find one day soon.

Prolonged substance abuse harms the body, the brain and the soul. We see it on our streets every day. Los Angeles has 58,000 homeless people. That equates to more people than the combined communities of Santa Paula, Fillmore and Piru.  Impossible to imagine managing that problem.  Like I’ve said before, when they are ready to live the life God designed for them, we will be here with all resources, support and good will.

Next week:  “When the neighborhood gets cranky”.

Mental Health Moment:  Each week, Dr. Jason Miller, a Psychologist at the Behavior Health Clinic here in Santa Paula, gives us tips on how to deal with problems facing our homeless population and ways to handle difficult encounters with others. He talked about what to do when someone is having a seizure. Several of our homeless people are subject to that.  The best thing to do is to try and break the fall so they don’t hit their head on a hard object. Turn them on the side, speaking words of comfort, like, “Help is on the way, I will stay with you, you will be okay.” Try to clean their airway if they are choking. They may often vomit, and it is important your face is away from them. Don’t put you hand in their mouth and put something between their teeth like a soft wallet. Not a pencil or your finger for sure. The seizure could last for ten minutes or more. Have someone call 911 and let the first responders take over when they arrive.

Food Rescue:  We learned that Ventura County has made the final cut for a grant to pursue “Waste Free Ventura County” saving food from the landfills. More on that in a few days.

Shower hours are being changed from 10 am to 1 pm on Friday so the mobile clinic stationed at the hospital can meet with the homeless who take advantage of a weekly, hot shower, clean towels, hygiene items, new underwear and socks. Jill Wallerstedt, John Flores, Melinda White and a helper are managing that event. County staff is amazing.

Next time you buy some, will you buy an extra pair or two for us. While only please. They need to know when it’s time to wash them.

If you are interested in donating to a fund for money to wash clothes, let me know. SPIRIT of Santa Paula, Post Office Box 728, Santa Paula CA 93061-0728. When you buy from Amazon, please go to www.smileamazon.com and select SPIRIT of Santa Paula as your charity of choice to receive a percentage of all your spending.

Thank you notes are going out this week to those who have supported the work on behalf of our neighbors in the margins.

Menu tomorrow is pulled-pork casserole with taco flavored humus sauce, fresh buttered cooked carrots from Garman’s Pub, rice from El Pescador, romaine salad with fresh tomatoes, orange slices, rolls and butter. We have five trays of pork not served at the school district cafeterias. Such a money saver and wise use of excellent food and protein.

Kay Wilson-Bolton, Volunteer Director

SPIRIT of Santa Paula

a 501C3 Corporation founded in 2002
Serving the Least Powerful and Most Vulnerable in our Community
805.340.5025