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:
- Ventura has hired 24 new officers to deal with homeless people.
- Define difference between homeless people and vagrants
- Hours of patrol officers have been extended
- Fire Departments and Battalion Chiefs are asked to be on the lookout for violations.
- One council member said she believes there are new people in town and believes
- they are being bussed from somewhere. People think that here as well.
- 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.
- Police want to focus on behavior and not just the fact they are homeless
- They discussed hiring an attorney to deal solely with police department issues
- There are nuisance behaviors that accelerates to violent behaviors
- They want to reinforce and elevate the laws against panhandling
- Ask all grocery stores to put locks on the carts so they can’t leave the premises
- Provide more housing: crisis, transitional and affordable
- Support Hannah Beth Jackson’s Senate bill for safety: Go to www.keepcalsafe.org and sign the petition
- 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.
- Enforce anti-recycling laws that provides funds for homeless people. It keeps them from getting help.
- Better lighting in all areas
- Increased collaboration with all service agencies and providers
- 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.
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.”