The Thomas Fire, the flue and street culture – Week 468 at Many Meals on January 3, 2018

It’s worthy to note this week begins our tenth year of serving our homeless population in Santa Paula.

There is no question the compromised air quality for so many days has exacerbated the opportunities for the flue and serious colds to invade the homeless population. The Drop In Center today was a good place for quarantine, but we carried on.

Several of them are starting to come back to the office around closing time asking if they can stay in the store room. I can’t start that. Cold temperatures are on us and the warm days cause them to lay down the blankets they got from us the day before. One of our regulars wants us to call 911 almost every day so she can get a warm night’s sleep at the ER. She insists of one test after another. It’s not working.

Almost everyone is coughing, choking and all that goes with the cold season–including all the volunteers. I learned something today.

We received a generous amount of generic pain relievers and cold medicine from our grocery store pickups. It is tempting to share them with those are congested and feverish, and I know I’m not a physician.

A number of our known addicts will sell them to other addicts as some kind of new street drug. If we decide Ibuprofen is in order, it will be two at a time and they can take them in front of me.

We completed our second week of Care Pod Showers. A total of ten were served this week. I’m hoping more will come on Friday and take advantage of a visit with the nurse from Ventura County Health Care Agency and Las Islas Mobile Clinic.  It’s the most wonderful program.

But, it does solve the problem of homelessness. Only housing will solve that. This takes educated leadership and political will.  Don’t see it yet.

I also learned that selling food stamp cards is common. All they have to do is set  a price, share the PIN number and they have cash for drugs. I need advice on this one if anyone has any.

Due to my own cold for days, this will be a short missal.

Menu tomorrow is barbecue beans with plenty of bacon, lettuce salad with fresh tomatoes, rice from El Pescador, cooked carrots from Garman’s Pub, rolls and butter and beautiful navel orange slices.

Thank you to all of you. Happy New Year sounds so trite, but I long for more peace and kinder words among us, more patience and a greater willingness to listen.​



Homeless for the Holidays at Many Meals Week 467 on December 27, 2017

This has been a month to remember with the Thomas Fire causing such fear and bringing such disaster.  Despite the impact of the winds, the terrible air quality and learning why breathing in that toxic cocktail of particles is so dangerous, the homeless population felt little impact. They were glued to the television and caught up in the reporting, but for the air quality, they lived their lives as usual.

Two reported to me recently that “we” have to serve them because I am rich and retired, and the government pays the volunteers to serve them.  Fortunately, all the others who benefit from our work and very grateful and appreciate the hot meals and now particularly the hot showers. The Welcome Center was open Christmas Day and we were able to share food and water with a number of them.

The soft launch of the Care Pods was last Friday under the eyes of County Health Care professionals and a few volunteers who welcomed those who received the first showers and registered them into the Homeless Management Information System.

Jill Wallerstedt, John Lopez and Laura Hernandez led the volunteer side. While I was disappointed only eight people took advantage of the showers and opportunities to see a nurse, the word was spread this week and I anticipate double the number this Friday. Those who enjoyed the showers commented on how good it felt and how organized it was. One is a single woman who is homeless and picks lemons for a living.

Pastor Paul Rovere from the El Buen Pastor United Methodist Church has been very welcoming and accommodating. We appreciate him and his congregation very much.

Nine families were adopted this year for gifts. It was a nice way to get to know how they live their lives. SPIRIT Vice President Lupe Servin organized Toys for Tots again this year. It was disappointing again to see some families reject many of the toys as not “good enough” or expensive enough. We are going to rethink our role in this very labor intensive task for next year. Toys for Tots is a wonderful project but as the “tots” get older, their tastes become more mature as well. The pressure on parents is not funny and hard to watch.

January 2018 starts year 10 for Many Meals. Little did we know where that first meal on January 14, 2009 would take us. We applaud the Many Meals project in Camarillo who followed us for still going strong and staying the course.

Food Share was closed today and I felt the pang of fear in providing affordably for our 600 meals tomorrow. We keep a rotating supply of food so we will be okay for this week. Thanks as always to Garman’s Pub for the fresh vegetables and El Pescador always willing to provide their wonderful Spanish rice.

We learned that Elevate Church in Newhall is discontinuing their fresh produce distributing at the Boys and Girls Club the third Saturday of each month. We thought to continue it but it would require renting a refrigerated truck, picking the up the vegetables in Pacoima on Friday afternoon and holding it for distribution until the next day. Not an easy task. Their decision to stop the activity is based on the diminished number attending on distribution day. We thank them for caring about our community.

Tomorrow’s meal will be our popular Chicken Enchilada Casserole, Spanish rice, fresh cooked carrots and chips. Hopefully someone will find some oranges so we can have a fresh orange quarter on the plate.

Thank you to those who support our work, like our stories and encourage us along the way by good words and/or financial support. If you are able to provide a donation before year’s end, please remember we are a 501C3 non-profit corporation and can provide a receipt for your tax deductible donation.   SPIRIT of Santa Paula, Post Office Box 728, Santa Paula CA 93061-0728.  If anyone out there is a grant writer, would you kindly let me know if you are able to help?




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 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

When Realtors Face the Loss of Home There are things than can’t be destroyed.


December 17, 2017

By Kay Wilson-Bolton

There is something unique in the business transaction of helping someone purchase a home or finding the right rental.

The goal is always a good ending and the perfect match. When a Realtor® hands someone the keys to their home, it goes with our best hope that all will be well and that memories become the basis of a good and certain future. Based on how the transaction went, there is a lifetime connection. There was great temptation during the Thomas Fire to call or text clients to see if they were safe or if we could help. So many of us had been evacuated ourselves, there was often little to do other than pray, be encouraging and supportive from afar and literally stand by.

We learned from the ravages of the Thomas Fire what any particular home, apartment, single family residence or manufactured home really means. It appears that each one who lost their home struggles most with the loss of the memories made inside. Yes, each of us placed some priority on what things needed to be removed in haste, but it seems those items were attached to memories such as family photos, grandma’s quilts, special books and keepsakes or to a new future with important papers and records.

The inconvenience of losing their dwelling manifested itself differently for each family. Some had the good fortune of finding vacant homes quickly or were able to stay with family and friends. It was very different for the 11 farmworker families in Santa Paula who lost their mobile homes located on ranch which were owned by their employer. The rally to provide for them took on its own personality as did the efforts in Ojai, Ventura, Fillmore and Santa Paula. Donations at most evacuation centers exceeded need, but it was determined by all it was a good problem to have.

During the smoky days of uncertainty, there were moments of angst when lenders stopped funding loans and the issuance of insurance policies was halted. The Realtor® community had to coalesce like never before to keep clients and colleagues informed and encouraged. Most of us had agreements that we would not press for updates but would stand by and wait for them.

Special communications were required of Realtors whose clients had left the area and left the care of the home to family and friends and their Realtor. The looming issues of safety collided with the issues of an uncertain future relating to value and a potentially slow market impacted by tragedy.

The real estate community in particular mobilized and uniquely rallied around our 16 colleagues who lost their homes. There was little time lost from the moment of discovery to making connection with an offer of a place to stay and the provision of basic necessities. Within a few hours, most of us knew from Facebook who the victims were and shared their sadness. It was clear no one was exempt from loss.

At the same time, Realtors for our communities joined their neighbors to serve food, collect items, have fundraisers and be good neighbors. There was cross sharing of resources.

We found Facebook to be our reliable information source. Posts were mostly thoughtful and carefully fact-based.

What is categorically true is that while there is justified sadness over the loss of property and the comforts of home, there is an overriding sorrow for the loss of firefighter Cory Iverson from San Diego. He gave all so that we would be safe. His family gave all too. It is the one most significant memory the survivors of the Thomas Fire will recall together.

Kay Wilson-Bolton has been serving Ventura County for 41 years.