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.”