“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

 

 

Homeless for the Holidays at Many Meals Week 467 on December 27, 2017

This has been a month to remember with the Thomas Fire causing such fear and bringing such disaster.  Despite the impact of the winds, the terrible air quality and learning why breathing in that toxic cocktail of particles is so dangerous, the homeless population felt little impact. They were glued to the television and caught up in the reporting, but for the air quality, they lived their lives as usual.

Two reported to me recently that “we” have to serve them because I am rich and retired, and the government pays the volunteers to serve them.  Fortunately, all the others who benefit from our work and very grateful and appreciate the hot meals and now particularly the hot showers. The Welcome Center was open Christmas Day and we were able to share food and water with a number of them.

The soft launch of the Care Pods was last Friday under the eyes of County Health Care professionals and a few volunteers who welcomed those who received the first showers and registered them into the Homeless Management Information System.

Jill Wallerstedt, John Lopez and Laura Hernandez led the volunteer side. While I was disappointed only eight people took advantage of the showers and opportunities to see a nurse, the word was spread this week and I anticipate double the number this Friday. Those who enjoyed the showers commented on how good it felt and how organized it was. One is a single woman who is homeless and picks lemons for a living.

Pastor Paul Rovere from the El Buen Pastor United Methodist Church has been very welcoming and accommodating. We appreciate him and his congregation very much.

Nine families were adopted this year for gifts. It was a nice way to get to know how they live their lives. SPIRIT Vice President Lupe Servin organized Toys for Tots again this year. It was disappointing again to see some families reject many of the toys as not “good enough” or expensive enough. We are going to rethink our role in this very labor intensive task for next year. Toys for Tots is a wonderful project but as the “tots” get older, their tastes become more mature as well. The pressure on parents is not funny and hard to watch.

January 2018 starts year 10 for Many Meals. Little did we know where that first meal on January 14, 2009 would take us. We applaud the Many Meals project in Camarillo who followed us for still going strong and staying the course.

Food Share was closed today and I felt the pang of fear in providing affordably for our 600 meals tomorrow. We keep a rotating supply of food so we will be okay for this week. Thanks as always to Garman’s Pub for the fresh vegetables and El Pescador always willing to provide their wonderful Spanish rice.

We learned that Elevate Church in Newhall is discontinuing their fresh produce distributing at the Boys and Girls Club the third Saturday of each month. We thought to continue it but it would require renting a refrigerated truck, picking the up the vegetables in Pacoima on Friday afternoon and holding it for distribution until the next day. Not an easy task. Their decision to stop the activity is based on the diminished number attending on distribution day. We thank them for caring about our community.

Tomorrow’s meal will be our popular Chicken Enchilada Casserole, Spanish rice, fresh cooked carrots and chips. Hopefully someone will find some oranges so we can have a fresh orange quarter on the plate.

Thank you to those who support our work, like our stories and encourage us along the way by good words and/or financial support. If you are able to provide a donation before year’s end, please remember we are a 501C3 non-profit corporation and can provide a receipt for your tax deductible donation.   SPIRIT of Santa Paula, Post Office Box 728, Santa Paula CA 93061-0728.  If anyone out there is a grant writer, would you kindly let me know if you are able to help?