“It Makes Me Want to Drink” – News from Many Meals on June 6, 2018 

Each week I have experiences revealing again that homelessness is not just about vagrants or transients, the new names that further categorize and stigmatize people who are homeless.

She is 74 years old, has an elegant name and dresses like a model. She rents a room with no kitchen privileges so the Drop In Center and Many Meals is a life-line for her during the week. She has lost her upper teeth and is very conscious of her appearance. She came to see me today in tears and told me the person who rents her the room has been mean to her and borderline abusive.  She is afraid of him and he is threatening to kick her out.  She is fearful and confided in me that this circumstance makes her want to go back to drinking.

I think most of us have a trigger of some kind that pushes us to shop, or to that chocolate donut, latte or frozen yogurt when we need something to comfort our wounded spirit or calm a fear. In her case, it’s the bottle and she knows it. She can sense she is moving closer to homelessness and drinking alleviates the fear for a while. I assured her I would be there to help her. She has a permanent disability and just finished a bout with cancer. We started her application for senior housing and will get into the Pathways to Home Program with the County of Ventura. Jennifer Harkey and Jackie Villanueva are case workers and saints in my world.

Jose agreed to go into detox last week. He was there for seven days and looked so good when he came home. But, because he is homeless, he went back to the streets where he quickly found his buddies.  He figured he could have a couple of beers, but it turned into two six packs and it’s all undone.  He had a very responsible job but too much time on his hands, His mother cries and so does he. He is very ashamed of his habit and his weakness.  He was offered a bed at Kephera House, arranged by Tom from the Whole Person Care Program, but decided he was “good” and passed on it.  I’m told your body can reach a point where you can die from one more drink.

The wonderful Shelby Hardy is a caseworker with Whole Person Care. She was successful in helping one of the better known men, who is in clear view of our community every day, enter a rehab program last week. She transported him on a Friday. The program is about 30 days. On Monday, he was back in town because he didn’t like being with drug addicts and being confined. There you have it.  What to do?

I’ve mentioned a woman who lives in a commercial building in town. She’s doing what she needs to do to gather her paperwork for the County’s housing program for disabled seniors who are homeless. Her birth certificate arrived today and we are just waiting for her divorce papers and social security card.  She learned today that it was election day and she cried because she didn’t get to vote.  Clearly being homeless doesn’t mean you stop living. It just means you have to find a way to get through the days, find food and a safe place to sleep.

Her government phone finally died so SPIRIT got her a new one. She needs to stay in touch with all the agencies connected to her search for housing and medical care. The One Stop in Santa Paula has made the difference in her quality of life. While not in the best place, she is not on the street with her little dog. One reason people who are homeless languish in that state is because they change their phone number so often. They lose their phone, it gets stolen, it’s a cheap one and it crashes, or they use up their minutes and have to start over when they have money for more.

It was graduation at one of our elementary schools today, and the son of a woman in our circle received top honors winning a trip tomorrow to a famous place with one other student. This family is homeless but safe in a very marginal living environment. Clearly he does his homework and gets the encouragement and support he needs to make his way.

A counselor in the Fillmore School District called today asking for help for a family with three children. They had to leave their apartment due to flooding while they were at work. They have no family here and no resources of their own. They slept in their car last night and we were asked if we would put them in a hotel for tonight. I learned who the landlord is and called him to suggest he needs to offer them lodging or at least vacate the rent for the days they are out. He was slow to agree to the latter, but he did. He shared the name of the property manager so we will follow up with him to be sure credit is given. If their home can’t be repaired, we will have a serious problem.

So you see, homelessness is not restricted to vagrants and transients. We know that category is the group that makes the mess, creates problems, causes trouble and irritates a community. Many of them want “out” of those circumstances but feel trapped or are enslaved to drugs and alcohol. They aren’t ready to do the hard work and there is no place for them to go.

SPIRIT is reaching out to partners in the housing industry and in the business of social services to act diligently in creating housing opportunities. We will be relentless until it happens.

Meanwhile, we continue to rescue unserved food from the Santa Paula Unified School District providing wonderful quantities of meat, milk, sandwiches, hamburgers, burritos, fruit, etc for use at the Drop In Center. Nothing goes to waste.

We closed the Drop In Center last Friday and served breakfast at the One Stop instead. We had our best day I’m told, about 25 people checked in for medical services and showers. James Boyd is the master of ceremonies there and has the same heart for this work as we do. He agrees that “one at a time” is worth it all.

So, in preparation for the weekly lifeline at Many Meals, we are serving Turkey Pot Pie with vegetables and gravy, mashed potatoes, cooked carrots with orange glaze, orange slices, rolls and butter.  Our cooks are the best and prepare these meals as though for their own families.

I can’t thank them enough, or the members of the Presbyterian Church who allow us to use their wonderful commercial kitchen and facilities.

BTW, once in a while, a reader chides me for grammatical errors. I write this late on Tuesdays and often while a little bleary. I will take a little grace on that if you will.

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 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

It Can Happen Here – News and View from Many Meals – Week No. 483 – April 24, 2018

There is great sorrow over the death of Anthony Mele, Jr. in Ventura last Thursday evening as he had dinner at a local restaurant with this wife and young daughter. This senseless, tragic death is astonishing and it points to our new reality that no one is safe anywhere. We cannot rest easy and think we will be untouched by the troubled humanity around us. Not many years ago, we were unlucky if something bad happened to us. Now, we are lucky if it doesn’t.

There will never be enough police to help them or help us. However, the new policing view has to be that both are done at the same time. We will be safer if there are better ways with more services to help our police departments help them. By helping them, they protect us.

What to do?  SPIRIT board members have asked for a meeting with a variety of leaders to take the lid off this coffin of mental illness among our homeless population. Our local officers know who the bad actors are, but they don’t know where they are all the time. One bad morning, aggravated by a sleepless night of roaming or rousting, can bring out the worst in someone. Many who see me around 9 every day are almost immovable with  frustration and loss of hope. Those with addictions are drowning in their own sense of guilt, fear and hopelessness. One was set off today because his car was towed for expired tags. He is 24 and on the streets tonight. I have no idea what he will be like tomorrow.

A 63-year old woman is staying in a local commercial business thanks to a soft business owner.  Further thanks to the new One-Stop, sponsored by the Ventura County Healthcare Agency, she received a diagnosis and some medication, but a 63-year old woman on the street is not safe. Her income is $973 per month. Not enough for a room and anything else, and I don’t know anyone who would rent to her. Another man, over 70 is staying in a building near the center of town. No shower, no cooking facilities. His income is about $900 per month.

So, I ask everyone to be extra mindful of your surroundings and support our police in every way possible. They have all been trained in Crisis Response but they can only be in one place at one time.

The call to action from the citizens of Ventura is our call as well. Some of the items cited at Monday’s Ventura City Council meeting are these:

  1. Ventura has hired 24 new officers to deal with homeless people.
  2. Define difference between homeless people and vagrants
  3. Hours of patrol officers have been extended
  4. Fire Departments and Battalion Chiefs are asked to be on the lookout for violations.
  5. One council member said she believes there are new people in town and believes
  6. they are being bussed from somewhere. People think that here as well.
  7. Councilmember Christy Weir stated that the methadone agency is no friend to the community and I agree. I have been to our clinic many times and believe it attracts drug users.
  8. Police want to focus on behavior and not just the fact they are homeless
  9. They discussed hiring an attorney to deal solely with police department issues
  10. There are nuisance behaviors that accelerates to violent behaviors
  11. They want to reinforce and elevate the laws against panhandling
  12. Ask all grocery stores to put locks on the carts so they can’t leave the premises
  13. Provide more housing: crisis, transitional and affordable
  14. Support Hannah Beth Jackson’s Senate bill for safety: Go to www.keepcalsafe.org and sign the petition
  15. Support SB 1971 on gravely disabled which allows people to be conserved for the good of the public. I wrote about this in a weekly email.
  16. Enforce anti-recycling laws that provides funds for homeless people. It keeps them  from getting help.
  17. Better lighting in all areas
  18. Increased collaboration with all service agencies and providers
  19. Work with other cities and learn about best practices.

The housing shortage is at crisis levels. Yesterday, two new homeless people were created because their cars were towed. One angel helped with funds to retrieve the car for the woman, but the 24 year old is sleeping on the street tonight. He had no money for tags and he took chances until his time ran out.  If our police are going to enforce laws, they have to apply it evenly.

The work of SPIRIT of Santa Paula is designed to end homelessness in our community. Work is being done in various planning to take us to that end. Our Project Manager is John Kulwiec, Architect Emeritus  and Fund Development Manager is Susan Kulwiec.  We are collaborating with people with have known for their good work and planning for programs we used to dream of.

I will keep you informed as doors open. Our Chief of Police and our officers are dedicated to preserving peace and helping people who are homeless where they can while keeping the public safe as a first priority.

Our new website will be up soon – thank you to Councilmember and pastor, Jenny Crosswhite and he charming husband, Daniel Sandoval. Geeks of a higher calling.

Tomorrow is Many Meals where we link up with our fragile neighbors. Thanks to the Presbyterian Church for opening your doors, to the members of so many churches who volunteer with us and to El Buen Pastor United Methodist Church for hosting the One Stop Clinic on Fridays. Showers are now from 9 am to 12:45 pm.

Our menu will be chicken pasta casserole, cole slaw with fresh pineapple, Pixie oranges thanks to Food Forward and Michael Shore,  buttered carrots thanks to Garman’s Pub, rolls and butter.

We love our volunteers, especially the kids.

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.

www.facebook.com/ManyMeals

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