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.