I want them to love me – Week 473 at Many Meals on February 7, 2018

After these nearly 10 years of living with and learning from those who have made their way in life in some fashion of homelessness, I think I know most of them pretty well. Once in a while they surprise when we come at odds with each other. My stories are true, but details are re-characterized so I am not breaching confidences and protecting the innocent–and the guilty.

This week it came in odd ways. I confronted one who was gossiping about me to his colleagues about something that was so manufactured it had to be addressed. I did so privately and very directly. I wasn’t mad. I was asking a question about what he said. He got so mad that he said he was never coming back to the Drop In Center and he would just do his “own thing.” That was a week ago.

He called to today to state he would pay me on the 10th the $70 he borrowed for his car registration. He also asked me for someone’s phone number. Guess he’s not mad after all, and I made sure he knew I was happy to hear from him. His life is messed up and one day, I pray it won’t be. He didn’t get this way overnight either.

Another person served a few days in jail for a warrant. When she was taken in, she asked me to keep her bicycle for her. A few hours later her roommate came to retrieve it. This is someone she lives with and has known for many years–also known well to us.

We handed the bicycle over without a thought, but the roommate sold it. Of course, the owner is furious and not sure who to be mad it but it started with me for giving away the bicycle. This is a little complicated, right? We are trying to get the bicycle back but meanwhile I have the cold shoulder from a few.

There is always tension around 5 pm when they come to the drop-in center and want dinner. Clearly it will be a long night if their last meal was at 10 am. Thanks to Food Rescue program, we generally have fresh food of some kind, like sandwiches, fresh fruit, packaged hamburgers or burritos. We try to accommodate but can’t always meet the need due to our own work schedules.

A program we have to put in place is providing porta potties in the downtown area so the homeless population has a place to go to the bathroom. Everyone’s hates pee and poop in the wrong places. As long as we are dealing with the challenges of having homeless people in our midst, we have to do what we can to make a bad situation less bad until they are homeless no more. Chief McLean and I have identified four spots where porta-potties can be placed along with a trash bin. It would cost about $1300 per month to provide the units and service them weekly. It’s a program that needs a little money.

To entice more of our homeless population to take advantage of the healthcare services and showers on Friday from 10-12:30 at El Buen Pastor Church (1029 E. Santa Paula Street), we are working with a local hairdresser to give free haircuts… after their shower. That would put a bow around the “Whole Person Care” program of the Ventura County Healthcare Agency.

The Homeless County is set for Thursday, February 22 from 6 am to 2. We can also count at our various events not held on that day. Unfortunately, that helps us get a higher count but we want it to be accurate. Funding from Federal programs are based on our numbers. If you would like to volunteer, let me know. We will have a training program on Friday, February 16 at 9 am at 113 N. Mill Street. We are counting electronically this year! Bring you IPads and Smart Phones.

Food Share had 120 lbs of cooked ham today and we just happen to have 100 dozen eggs, so we will serve the fabulous quiche recipe again with fresh tomatoes, onions, celery, cheddar cheese, milk and salsa seasoning; complimented by fresh cooked carrots, romaine lettuce salad, orange slices, rolls and butter. This meal gets lots of thank you’s.  Hats off to the cooks who make it all happen.

We have a number of people working off traffic fines by volunteering at Many Meals. It’s a major bonus for them because they get to meet some of the world’s best people and serve some of the best guests.

Thank you to all who participate and encourage us. Someday, I hope to report that homelessness in Santa Paula is no more​ and I could look back and believe they all loved us in some way.​

Kay Wilson-Bolton is the volunteer director of the SPIRIT of Santa Paula who advocates for the least powerful and most vulnerable people in Santa Paula. www.spiritofsantapaula.org  805.340.5025

 

 

 

 

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?