“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

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

 

 

 

“When Showers Come to Santa Paula” – Week 476 at Many Meals on February 28, 2018

Ninety days ago, I had a tiny vision of what it could be like to offer hot showers to a group of homeless people who could also see a health care professional, receive information on Medi-cal, get help for substance abuse, infections, aches and pain, receive a lunch, clean socks and underwear, a haircut and encouragement.

Last Friday, the vision became an amazing reality as the “Leadership Eagles” in Ventura County and Santa Paula gathered at a humble church location to dedicate the Care Pod and launch the One Stop Program which is part of the Whole Person Care program for the benefit of Santa Paula’s homeless population.

Welcoming almost 100 people in the church parking lot was Pastor Pablo Rovere of the El Buen Pastor United Methodist Church, where the Care Pod is located. Attending the ceremony were Supervisor Kelly Long; Dr. Johnson Gill, Director of the Ventura County Health Care Agency; Mike Powers, Chief Executive Officer of the County of Ventura; Dr. John Schipper, Adult Division Chief Ventura County Behavioral Health, City Manager Michael Rock; Santa Paula Council Members John Procter, Clint Garman, Jenny Crosswhite and Martin Hernandez; Police Chief Steve McLean and Sergeants Walt Harper and Scott Varner; Fire Chief Rick Araiza and SPIRIT of Santa Paula Board Members and volunteers.

Santa Paula was chosen to be the site of the first Care Pod. These units are constructed by the WoodStock Company owned in partnership by retired Fire Chief Vern Alstot and Woody Bouska.  Volunteers John Lopez and Rick Carney from Catalyst Church in Santa Paula open and close the pods each Friday. Jill Wallerstedt, Melinda While and Petey Reyna welcome guests and hand out supplies and gifts. Friends of the El Buen Pastor United Methodist Church help with snacks and provide support and encouragement for the guests including Louise Vega, Nicey Cabral and Laura Hernandez.

You can’t say thanks enough. You just can’t. Remember that the goal is to end homelessness in Santa Paula.

 

On other notes:  Ray is back in town after a 30-day stay recovering in a care facility after an emotional breakdown.  He looks so good and is feeling good about himself. The very bad news is that he was discharged to the streets. This is the first step in a setback. We have to provide transitional housing or  there will not be an end to homelessness. It’s very simple. The STAR had a significant editorial on this topic after the propane heater exploded at River Haven this week killing the occupant of the dome. It shouldn’t happen and it’s tragic.

The Homeless Count will be completed tomorrow and we did a better job of finding more of our people rather than limiting the count to one day at one point in time. Thanks to the volunteers for making that happen.

Food Rescue is alive and well thanks to Public Health Director Robert Levin. Another planning meeting was held this week with many good partners participating like Food Share, Food Forward, Project Understanding, and various County agencies.  CalRecyle awarded a $750,000 grant to help stop putting organic material in landfills and reduce greenhouse gases.  This link provides a very educational instruction on the topic: http://www.calrecycle.ca.gov/climate/organics/

Finally, the best news ever came today when one of our homeless men over 62 with a documented disability was awarded a housing voucher where he can live out his days in clean and safe housing. It is part of the Pathways to Home Project. Six units in Santa Paula have been designated for this category. They are the new units on 12th Street.

Tomorrow’s menu will be our famous ham and baked beans, rice from El Pescador, green salad with tomatoes, veggies including carrots from Garman’s Pub, warm tortillas  and orange slices. Thanks to Tom and Hank for helping out at Food Share today.

As always, Wednesdays are more than Many Meals. There are many people to minister to and serve.

Next Week “A Homeless Person in a Child’s eye

Kay Wilson-Bolton is the volunteer director of SPIRIT of Santa Paula.  She can be reached at 05.340.5025.   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

 

 

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