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

 

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

 

 

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.”

 

Calling All Towels – Week 466 at Many Meals on December 20, 2017

The Showers are back and it’s been a long-awaited event for our homeless population, and now anyone who has been affected by fires and doesn’t have a place to clean up.

If you have one or more good-sized bath towels to spare, would you drop them at Many Meals this week? We need a new stash.

The details:  The Mobile Outreach Care Pods project is a collaboration between El Buen Pastor Church, Spirit of Santa Paula, and Ventura County Health Care Agency (including Health Care for the Homeless and Whole Person Care Programs and Las Islas Mobile Health Unit) to outreach to and provide basic services, including showers and referrals to social services for the homeless.

The goal is to bring the high utilizers of the health care system into the Whole Person Care Program where all their needs are met with a focus on connecting them to resources and reduce the numbers of ER visits to appropriate and regular care.

The Care Pods are retrofitted container boxes that include showers (including ADA accessible showers) and an exam room for very limited scope medical services (vaccinations, TB testing, brief health assessments, treatment of minor skin conditions).  The goal is to support basic hygiene and connect homeless individuals with a range of services that should support their long-term stability including mental health and alcohol and drug programs, benefits programs (health insurance, food, employment), etc.  Staffed with clinical and non-clinical representatives from County Agencies and community non-profits, the Care Pods will provide an array of needed services in a one-stop model.

How many days a week?   One day a week, but no more than three days a week per established MOU.

Services offered: Showers, referrals to social services, referrals to mental health and alcohol and drug services, limited scope medical services (vaccinations, TB testing). There will be free hygiene bags, clean underwear, clean towels for drying, clothes when available for both men and women.

Request for Duration of Permit:  Through 12/31/2020

SPIRIT of Santa Paula will be provide volunteers at the site but the County will provide the nurses and registration process linking the attendees to the HMIS, Homeless Management Information System. This tracks the utilizers of the healthcare system. In fact, we are close to getting two of our disabled seniors into permanent housing because they were already in HMIS.  We are soon to be trained in the program.

We are very excited to bring this much needed basic service back to our residents. Jill Wallerstedt has worked with the Showers of Blessing program in Santa Barbara and will be leading the Santa Paula effort on behalf of SPIRIT of Santa Paula.

The impact of the Thomas Fire on the homeless population was largely felt in the poor air quality. We provided masks and were able to keep them indoors for some of the daylight hours, but they were sleeping and breathing it all night.  They didn’t lose anything in the flames, their habitat can be almost anywhere and they know that the majority of people who lost their homes can get another one. They watched intently on television and were engaged in the sights and sounds of winds, fire and equipment. We had a huge source of fresh water bottles. I can count on them to recycle! I am attaching a chart showing the cycle of emotion following a crucial incident. It takes a year so we have many days ahead to be kind.

Mental Health Clinicians have been very attentive to us at Many Meals and the Drop in Center. We have had a fair share of high energy incidents at Many Meals and two of those were caused by people in great need of high levels of care. One is now in a treatment program and unfortunately another one is in jail. I can only help there is an outreach there so his re-entry back into the community is a gentle one.

Christmas is here, along with the continued requests from parents for presents. It’s almost a full time job. A number of really good people have stepped in and offered to take care of a family, instead of scattering the donation.

We have missed the food from the cafeterias within the Santa Paula Unified School District. School has been out for two weeks and will not resume until January when the air quality is safer and Christmas vacation has ended. SPIRIT board member and past president, Dawn Bavero, will be leading the effort to perfect our food rescue system. A meeting has been called for January by Dr. Levin of the Ventura County Public Health Agency to pursue a concerted effort to rescue food and diminish the organic material going into landfills. The program will be called “Waste Free Ventura County”.

Our menu tomorrow is Cheddar Cheese and Chicken casserole with and bacon and cheese sauce casserole, ready-made cole slaw with ranch dressing, slices oranges, buttered carrots from Garman’s Pub, roles and butter.

Our meals are always nutritious. Schools get points when their meals reach a certain level of protein and nutrition. We are mindful of the quality and character of our weekly meal.

On behalf of the Board of Directors, we thank you for being faithful to this work. If you shop Amazon, please us www.smileamazon.com and specify SPIRIT of Santa Paula as your designated charity.

If you can give a year end gift, please do so. The address is PO Box 728, Santa Paula CA 93061-0728.

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

The State of Homelessness in Santa Paula

On the Other Hand

By Kay Wilson-Bolton

October 5, 2013

 

There are less homeless people in Santa Paula today than three years ago. The numbers have gone to more than 90 to around 30. They are what I call “hard core” homeless.

With some exceptions, most homeless people are choosing it over being housed in safe and clean places because of their drug and alcohol addictions. Plain and simple.

The SPIRIT of Santa Paula operated the winter shelter for homeless folks for three years. We chose to discontinue that program in 2012-2013. Our goal when we began in 2009 was to end homelessness. During the first two years we housed many children and single parents which was during the most difficult economic period. During the last year of operation, while there were some exceptions, addiction ranked high of the list causing homelessness.

It became apparent to the Board that we with great effort on the part of volunteers, simple making people comfortable in winter who were unwilling to help themselves and mark the hard decision and tackle the work necessary to change their lives.

We met with many of them and explained why we were closing the shelter and prepared them in September of 2011 to seek alternatives. Some of them entered the shelter programs in Oxnard for mothers and children at the Lighthouse and the men went to the Salvation Army, the Armory and Rescue Mission.

Many of them hunkered down into the river bed and suffered through the winter with terrible colds, teeth ache and catered to their addictions.

There has been a spike in panhandling since then. Many of the beggars you see on the street corners and at Von’s have addictions. If you give them money, you might as well give them their next fix.

We told them we were not abandoning them but when they were ready to change their life, we would be there for them. We have been and we are.

Some of them are in counseling and treatment programs and some of them are working hard at staying clean and sober. Some have put themselves on calendar at the court and done their jail time and entered rehab programs.

For three years, SPIRIT managed Richard’s House, a transitional homeless shelter on the edge of town. During that time, we served 59 people ranging from our two newborns to women over 70 years ago. Fifteen of them were under the age of 15. They were truly and legitimately homeless.

To my knowledge through today, no one from that prior of time is on the streets. Most of them have found permanent shelter and many of them have jobs. Some are in campers and garages but not hiding behind dumpsters.

On September 30, 2013, Richard’s House officially closed.  It is not because the need ended but because we were not equipped as a small non-profit to adequately case manage each resident. We were not monitoring their daily schedules and following up with job interviews, doctor’s appointment and programs.  Because of that some of them stayed a few weeks beyond their allotted time and left when we got very aggressive in monitoring their progress.

SPIRIT has reorganized our services and are working closer with individuals and local churches in small group settings and individual counseling sessions to see how to live the life God designed for them.  We have found counselors and two trainees serving in the Valley Biblical Counseling Center. There is no charge for services.

Our drop-in center at the First Christian Church is expanding hours and services to help connect people with resources and services currently offered through the County which includes “stop smoking” programs, mental health, dental care, prescription assistance and others. Soon, nutrition classes will be offered during the day to help mothers prepare healthier foods and stem the overwhelming tides of childhood obesity and diabetes.

The Many Meals program at the First Presbyterian Church provides a hot meal for anyone who wants one. We serve about 600 meals each week to hungry families who by USDA standards can save $80/month for a family of four if they eat with each Wednesday.  That’s a tank of gas or a utility bill. Some of the river people come for dinner; so do a few of our local business people.

We partner with the County in distributing literature on services for which they are eligible, the Rescue Mission, United Way for utility and rental assistance, Cal Fresh, USDA food supplies and cell phones.  We are focused on healthy families so life is easier at home and kids do better in school.

We are the refrigerator connection in town. Many landlords do not provide refrigerators so we help people connect with one so they can live a normal life in a habitable dwelling.

The entire matter of drugs and alcohol should alarm us.  We all need to be educated on the effect of having a methadone clinic in our community providing daily doses of substitute legal drugs to addicts.

Santa Paula also has a needle exchange program, controversial to most everyone. That question is always simple. Do we want our drug addict to use dirty needles and spread HEP C and HIV among other diseases? Or, do we prefer to have our addicts use clean needles and not spread them.

Drug and alcohol abuse is a major cause of society‘s meltdown and must be a contributor to our increasing violence and gang activity.

Harbor Church in Ventura is under attack by the neighborhood for the element it is attracting by serving the chronic homeless population. All the elements that concern those neighbors are fair.  They were asked by the planning commission to take on the task of managing their homeless visitors with the goal of ending homelessness. The response was that is not the call of the church to take on that function.

I couldn’t disagree more. The Bible is very clear on the role of the Church in helping our brothers and sisters, admonishing and teaching them, and restoring them.  It is also clear about helping the poor as it is on what happens to lazy people.  If the church shepherds people within it, there must be way for Harbor Church to work within that structure to manage them. Delivering “no strings attached” services just doesn’t work.

The good news is our real homeless population is less than half of what it was. The count in 2007 was 97, in 2009 it was 91; in 2010 the number dropped to 54; it dropped again in 2011 to 50; it spiked in 2012 to 60 for unknown reasons and dramatically dropped in 2012 to 34 people.  That should be considered progress.

Most of our homeless are second and third generation Santa Paulans who wore out their families trying to deal with their additions. Someone of our homeless men and women have mental issues and have deeply troubled souls. The hear voices and live with great fear. This adds to the problem of homelessness and demands on public safety personel.

There is someone dear to me in this work who has managed to hold herself above the tragic events that circle a home where addicts live. She has lost brothers and sisters and a niece. She has family in prison and cares for her mother who lives with a broken heart over the devastation drugs has unleashed upon her family.

She is a woman who despite all odds is a good and capable citizen, caring for her family, getting them all to school and church where good foundations for the future are laid by a caring teachers, administrators, and a pastor who encourages and preaches the Good News about redemption and how old things can pass away and all things can become new.

It can be done but hardly alone. It takes many support systems to prop up the one who is in front.

Our pastoral and counseling work has led us to families who visit their children in prison and pray for them while they try to care for and feed their grandchildren.

The issue of drug and alcohol addiction as it relates to homelessness and gang activity is no small problem in this community of ours and it didn’t happen in a short time.

However, it has accelerated in a short time and we have been surprised by the overt fearless demonstration of violence. It has not surprised the families who live in fear of very bad possibilities and the realities of wrenching outcomes. It breaks hearts of parents and grandparents and devastates children who don’t know where to look for stability, safety, consistency and genuine love.

I’m supporting our new Chief of Police, Steve McLean, and praying with many church leaders that he can return us to a time when we can sit on porches again and children can play safely in parks and the streets. Hopefully to a time when our grandparents can dream dreams again and our children have hope for a future free of violence.

We must provide a community that stops robbing children of being a child in a small community that is safe to play and learn and grow.

Kay Wilson-Bolton is the volunteer director of SPIRIT of Santa Paula, the advocates for homeless and hungry families.

The State of Homelessness in Santa Paula

Kay Wilson-Bolton

October 6, 2013

Published in the Santa Paula Times

There are less homeless people in Santa Paula today than three years ago. The numbers have gone from 97 to 34. Those remaining are “hard core”  homeless.

With some exceptions, most homeless people choose the streets over being housed in safe and clean places because of their drug and alcohol addictions.

The SPIRIT of Santa Paula operated the winter shelter for homeless folks for three years. We chose to discontinue that program in 2012-2013.  When we began in 2009 our goal was to end homelessness. During the first two years we housed many children and single parents in a most difficult economic period. During the last year of operation, while there were some exceptions, addiction ranked high of the list causing homelessness.

It became apparent to the Board that we, with great effort on the part of volunteers, were simply making homeless people comfortable in winter on their way to a lost eternity who were unwilling to tackle the hard work of sobriety.

We met with many of them and explained why we were closing the shelter in order to prepare them in September of 2011 to seek alternatives. Some of them entered the shelter programs in Oxnard for mothers and children at the Lighthouse and the men went to the Salvation Army, the Armory and Rescue Mission.

Many of them hunkered down into the river bed and suffered through the winter with terrible colds and teeth aches while catering to their addictions.

There has been a spike in panhandling since then. Many of the beggars you see on the street corners and at Von’s have addictions. If you give them money, you might as well give them their next fix.

We told them we were not abandoning them but when they were ready to change their life, we would be there for them. We have been and we are.

Some of them are in counseling and treatment programs and some of them are working hard at staying clean and sober. Some have put themselves on calendar at the Courts, completed their jail time and entered rehab programs.

For three years, SPIRIT also managed Richard’s House, a transitional homeless shelter on the edge of town. During that time, we served 59 people ranging from two newborns to women over 70 years old. Fifteen of them were under the age of 16. They were truly and legitimately homeless.

To my knowledge through today, no one from their time at Richard’s house is on the streets. Most of them have found permanent shelter and many have jobs. Some are in campers and garages but not hiding behind dumpsters to find safe sleep.

On September 30, 2013, Richard’s House officially closed.  It is not because the need ended but because we realized we  were not equipped as a small non-profit to adequately case manage each resident. We were not monitoring their daily schedules and following up with job interviews, doctor’s appointment and programs.

Because of that some of them stayed a few weeks beyond their allotted time and left when we got very aggressive in monitoring their progress.

SPIRIT has reorganized its services. We are working closer with individuals and local churches in small group settings and individual counseling sessions to help them discover how to live the life God designed which includes work, responsibility and accountability.  We have three trained and experienced counselors and three trainees serving in the Valley Biblical Counseling Center. There is no charge for services.

Our drop-in center at the First Christian Church is expanding hours and services to help connect people with resources and services currently offered through the County which includes “stop smoking” programs, mental health, dental care, prescription assistance and others. Nutrition classes will be offered during the day to help mothers prepare healthier foods and stem the overwhelming tides of childhood obesity and diabetes.

The Many Meals program at the First Presbyterian Church provides a hot meal for anyone who wants one. We serve about 600 meals each week to hungry families who by USDA standards can save $80/month for a family of four if they eat with us each Wednesday.  That’s a tank of gas or a utility bill. Some of the river people come for dinner; so do a few of our local business people.

We partner with the County in distributing literature on services for which they are eligible, the Rescue Mission, United Way for utility and rental assistance, Cal Fresh, USDA food supplies and cell phones.  We are focused on healthy families so life is easier at home and kids do better in school.

We have become the refrigerator connection in town. Many landlords do not provide them so we help people connect with one to help live a normal life in a habitable dwelling.

The entire matter of drugs and alcohol should alarm and motivate us.  We need to be educated on the effect of having a methadone clinic in our community providing daily doses of substitute legal drugs to addicts.

Santa Paula also has a needle exchange program, controversial to many. The question is always simple. Do we want our drug addicts to use dirty needles and spread HEP C and HIV among other diseases? Or, do we prefer to have our addicts use clean needles and not spread them.

Drug and alcohol abuse is a major cause of society‘s meltdown and must be a contributor to our increasing violence and gang activity.

Harbor Church in Ventura is under attack by the neighborhood for the element it is attracting by serving the chronically homeless population.

All the elements that concern those neighbors are fair.  Church leadership was asked by the planning commission to take on the task of managing their homeless visitors with the goal of ending homelessness. The response was that is not the call of the church to take on that function.

I respectfully disagree. The Bible is very clear on the role of the Church in helping our brothers and sisters, admonishing and teaching them, and restoring them.

It is also clear about helping the poor just as it is on what happens to lazy people.  If the church shepherds people within it, there must be way for Harbor Church to work within that structure to manage them. Delivering “no strings attached” services just doesn’t work—in my opinion.

The good news is our real homeless population is 65% less than what it was. The County’s homeless count in 2007 revealed Santa Paula’s homeless to be 97 people;  in 2009 it was 91; in 2010 the number dropped to 54; it dropped again in 2011 to 50; it spiked in 2012 to 60 for unknown reasons and dramatically dropped in 2012 to 34 people.  That is progress.

Most of our homeless are second and third generation Santa Paulans who wore out their families trying to deal with their additions. Some of our homeless men and women have mental issues and deeply troubled souls. They hear voices and live with great fears. This adds to the problem of homelessness and demands on public safety personnel and services.

There is someone dear to me in this work who has managed to hold herself above the tragic events that circle a home where addicts live. She has lost brothers and sisters and a niece. She has family in prison and cares for her mother who lives with a broken heart over the devastation drugs has unleashed upon her family.

She is a woman who, despite all odds, is a good and capable citizen caring for her family with a full time job, getting them all to school and church where good foundations for the future are laid by caring teachers and  administrators. She has a pastor who encourages her and preaches the Good News about redemption and how old things can pass away and all things can become new.

It can be done but hardly alone. It takes many support systems to prop up the one who is in front.

Our pastoral and counseling work has led us to families who visit their children in prison and pray for them while they try to care for and feed their grandchildren.

The issue of drug and alcohol addiction as it relates to homelessness and gang activity is no small problem in this community and it didn’t happen in a short time.

However, it has accelerated in a short time and we have been surprised by the overt and fearless demonstration of violence. It has not surprised the families who live in fear of very bad possibilities and the realities of wrenching outcomes. It breaks hearts of parents and grandparents and devastates children who don’t know where to look for stability, safety, consistency and genuine love.

I’m supporting our new Chief of Police, Steve McLean, and praying with many church leaders that he can return this community to a time when we can sit on porches again and children can play safely in parks and the streets; hopefully to a time when our old folks can dream dreams again and our children have hope for a future free of violence.

 

 

 

 

 

NDOP 2013 Santa Paula Program

Thursday, May 2, 2013
Santa Paula’s Observance of the National Day of Prayer – 7 pm
Puente de Vida Church
203 South 8th Street, Santa Paula
Sponsored by the SPIRIT of Santa Paula

NDOP Theme Song ‘Pray’ by Sanctus Real – Interpreter – Pastora Adelita Garza, Puente de Vida

Welcome – Howard Bolton, Spirit of Santa Paula

Call to Repentance – Pastor Bob Ramos, First Presbyterian Church

Worship Team – “Here I am to Worship”, “How Great is Our God”

The Family – Father Charles Lueras, Our Lady of Guadalupe Church

The Church – Pastor Don Loomer, Heritage Valley Fellowship

Revival, Government Leaders, the President, Pastor David McKeever, Valley Community Church

Educators and Youth – Pastor Johnny Flores, Santa Paula Vineyard
Worship Team: Open the Eyes of my Heart

Media – Steve Brackley, Gloryland Films

Hope for the Oppressed – Veronica Sandez

Harvest and Missionaries – Pastor Adelita Garza

Children’s Song (PdV Kids) – ‘Go Tell the World’, Dismiss Kids (ages 3-10)

Military – Ken Ary

Israel – Larry Barbarine

Business Community – Jose Segura

Public Safety Personnel – Dawn Bavero

Prisoners, Homeless and People at Risk – Thomas Hunter

Worship: “Revelation Song”

Marriages – Kathy and Mike O’Donnell

Sanctity of Life – Kay Wilson-Bolton

Unity and Reconciliation – Pastor Jenny Crosswhite, First Christian Church

Pastors and Church Leaders – Margarita La Rue

Benediction – Pastor Johnny Flores

Volunteer Opportunities

The SPIRIT of Santa Paula is a unique non-profit organization formed to serve our community. There are a variety of ways you can help us love the poor, hungry and challenged people in our community.

Many Meals – We serve about 600 meals each Wednesday from the Presbyterian Church at 121 Davis. The kitchen door is on the north side of the building. Cooking and preparation begins at 12 noon and serving begins at 4:15 pm. Decide when you would like to serve and simply show up. We provide lots of opportunities to earn community service hours.

We go to FOOD Share on Tuesdays and Fridays. We are happy for you to join us and help shop. It takes some training and only those who are interested in doing this regularly should plan to work in this phase.

Our drop-in center is known as Richard’s Welcome Center and open on Monday through Friday from 8:30 am to 3 m. It is located at 849 Railroad Avenue. We met and greet people who are homeless or need a friend to help them connect with resources. They can check email or listen to the news. Veronica is the site supervisor and knows where to go for help. Her phone is 805.625.4898.

We are into food rescue. Every food service organization throws away food every day. Some more than others. If you have a connection with any food service organization such as school cafeterias, restaurants, catering services please put me in touch. We know how to handle food safely and we are Serve Safe Certified. Help stop the waste. Call Kay 805.340.5025.

We provide free Biblical Counseling, believing that all we need for life and godliness is found in the Bible as stated in 2 Peter 1:3 and that hope is what we need to get through this life, 1 Peter 3:1–hope in Jesus Christ.

We also provide free neighborhood mediation to help people work through the smaller but irritating challenges.

Its all Biblical. Gods word is true and its sufficient for all our needs.

We need people to pray for us. The work is hard but the worth it beyond measure.

Daddy, are we homeless yet?

February 23, 2009

It seemed like a simple trip from Santa Ynez to Fillmore for a family funeral for Mark and his little boy. It meant a day out of school for a sad occasion, but an outing together nonetheless.

Mark’s friend lives in Ventura and they decided to spend the night so that the last leg made in the morning would be less hectic.
Mark and his son left Ventura about 7:30 am and they planned to stop at MacDonald’s. He had $15 to last to the end of the month and they spent $8 of it at breakfast. Foolish he knew, but rarely did he have a day out with his son.

Near Hallock Drive, something happened to the car. It was raining and a little dreary. Mark’s car began to slide into a large truck in the lane next to him. A car behind them both struck mark’s car. The little boy was wrenched in his seatbelt and the air bag’s exploded

Santa Paula’s medical team and Fire Department were dispatched within seconds. The passengers were transported to Santa Paula Hospital Emergency Room. The calm one was 8 years old.

Dad knew that someone needed to be called but his cell phone was in the car. While the Fire Department had searched for it, it was not to be found. Mark was not able to remember anyone’s phone numbers but could remember the name of his son’s elementary school. They were able to provide emergency phone numbers needed to summon help.

Mark called several people but no one answered. No one knew about the car accident and no was standing by to help this family. The ER doctor insisted the patients remain for a while for observation

At about 2 pm, the pair was released from the ER. They sat in the waiting room wondering how they would get back home and how they would get their personal items from the car.

A local Chaplain heard about their plight and agreed to take them home. They first went to McCoy’s Automotive to see the car. It had been moved to a remote location for storage and a nice man guided them. It was raining by now, the windows in the car were smashed and there was no power to close them.

Fortunately, the cell phone was found up under the seat. In 30 minutes, all their personal items had been removed and they were headed home. Their car was a total loss and Mark had no damage insurance for his own car.

Mark was not on able to reach his son’s mother, his parents were too sick to make the drive. His brother did not get off work until 5 pm and could not be reached either.

There was only one thing to do and that was for someone to take them back to Santa Ynez. On the way, reality began to reveal itself. Only $7 remained for the 11 days left in the month, this month’s rent had not been paid, and their car had been demolished. How would Mark make his doctor’s appointments? How would he look for a job? How would his son get to school?

The son was very concerned about what would happen to his dad and their belongings. He soon asked, “Dad, does this mean we will be homeless?”
No one answered his question, including me. It is now the end of the month. There by now must be no money; there is no car, there never was a job; the first of the month is here again.

On their way out of town at the gas station, the ambulance crew was on a move-up and recognized the riders. They made their way to the car to greet them and wished them well.
This family was changed by their day in Santa Paula. Most of it was good; some of it was problematic and they clearly could have been dead.

What it points to is the fragile circumstance people encounter when they have no margin for error. They live in an affordable housing complex paying $1100 in rent. They are on the waiting list for Section 8 which is 3-4 years out.

Their resources are tapped and there is no safety net. So goes their story. For them it is now way day at a time and the future is not promising. Did they cause some of their problems they face. Probably. Didn’t we all?