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.​