The Ventura STAR has invited me to submit a Guest Column on my favorite topic. Here it is:
“Every city in Ventura County is suffering from the tragedy and loss of Mr. Mele at the Aloha Steakhouse. The sad reality is what happened there can happen anywhere. It is a matter of time until the same circumstances exist for another unstable, emotional individual to go on the attack. There are near-misses every day. I know.
Every City has homeless people. They are either to the climate and the comfort or they are homeless in their city of origin or where their kinfolk live… children, parents, and siblings. To think I could round them up and get them on a bus to go to another community is inconceivable. It’s difficult to get the to the winter shelter at night in Ventura or Oxnard because they want to “come home” during the day.
Police officers cannot be everywhere all the time. Service providers can’t provide everything people who are homeless need, especially those with the challenges of substance abuse, depression, anxiety and mental illness. The majority of the calls to the Santa Paula Police Department are for issues dealing with people who are homeless. Most are for things they do that irritate people, not necessarily for violating any laws.
It’s a complicated problem and it’s getting worse. Good people in various places are doing some things. No one can do everything and collaboration is essential.
Serving food reduces panhandling and stealing. It also keeps them healthier while on the streets. Providing temporary shelters keeps them from peeing and pooping on the streets at night, but they are on the streets during the day without adequate facilities. Providing counseling helps but they have to make it to appointments and in larger communities transportation can be a barrier.
Individuals who are homeless create as many challenges as the population of homeless people as a whole. The way they live and where they live is damaging to the environment. The amount of trash they create makes a mess. We are working on providing trash bins and porta-potties in various locations to minimize the impact of their homelessness on our community.
Reality is that not every person who is homeless wants to live in a structured environment. They love the alcohol and drugs too much. Many of our people have said “enough”. When the last one standing is ready to say that, we will be there to take the next steps with them. Joining us will be our partners at Whole Person Care, the entire Ventura County Healthcare Agency, Behavioral Health, first responders, nurses, physicians, clinicians, counselors and many more in the network of service providers.
As an advocate for my Santa Paula homeless population, we do what we can every day to minimize the impact and the risks of living among people who are homeless. Some of my people can be aggressive when agitated. We are trained in de-escalating but we aren’t with them 24 hours a day.
There is only one real answer and that is managed care in transitional and/or permanent housing. The real barrier is no one wants this in their back yard, their neighborhoods, near schools or work centers. If you build housing away from all these services, that makes for different challenges.
The savings to taxpayers in reducing or eliminating the emergency room as their primary care provider would easily cover the cost of building or acquiring housing. One known high-utilizer of the ER had 152 visits in 2017. Imagine the cost of that along with the cost of all first responses and treatment.
The Board of Supervisors is calling for all cities to work towards providing shelters. All experts on this topic agree that housing is the missing link and the necessary component to treatment and wellness.
Many groups are working on bits and pieces in the Continuum of Care within the County’s system. The missing link has been identified and, like the missing gene, it has to be cultivated or there is no cure in our lifetime.” That’s a wrap.
SPIRIT of Santa Paula has a beautiful new website thanks to our creators Jenny Crosswhite (Councilmember, pastor, graphic artist) and her husband Daniel Sandoval (private investigator genius, computer geek and data analyst, and graphic artist himself). We comment them to you for work if needed on yours. www.spiritofsantapaula.org
The annual meeting of SPIRIT is coming up and taking a big part in that meeting will be board member and advisor Dr. Bill Simmons. We call him our Futurist. He helps us look at the future differently, more boldly, more wisely and more creatively.
Bill is the founder of I-PRISE Communications, a strategic planning and technology innovation consulting firm. He also serves as a senior advisor for Global Trade and Technology, a national 501C3 non-profit chartered to aid and assist in educating and training America’s current and future workers to increase the global competitiveness for 21st century STEM jobs and careers. He currently assists the Center for Threat Management and the Port of Hueneme in areas of technology innovation and the conduct of the Coastal Trident Exercise and Maritime Advanced System & Technology. In 1995, he led the successful effort to defend Point Mugu from closure by the Federal Base Realignment and Closure. He served as the interim President and change agent for the Ventura County Economic Development Association (VCEDA) and he established regional task forces for the Housing Opportunities Made Easier (HOME) and Preserving our Widely Use Energy Resources (POWER). Following the Northridge earthquake, he was a partner in the Fillmore &Western Railway Business Development Group creating “Fillmore Now” and was the economic jump-start in forming the Heritage Valley Tourism Bureau. He is the founding chair for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) in Ventura County. He studied aeronautical engineering and went on to earn his Masters and PhD degrees. You can see the dimension of education, experience and leadership Bill brings to our board.
Some updates: Noe completed his week of detox. He is on the streets tonight waiting for a bed in rehab. The streets are not a good place for anyone who is trying to stay sober. Pray for him.
One of our women who lives in a tent in an unsafe place was put on a 51/50 hold last week due to her physical and mental condition. Key people quickly found a bed for her and she has been in evaluation since Friday. I so pray something good comes from this. What good can come if she goes back to live in her tent?
Tomorrow’s menu is barbecue baked beans with chicken and bacon, rice from El Pescador, cooked buttered carrots from Garman’s Pub, Spanish rice from El Pescador, croissants, chips and Pixie tangerines.
Our mental health moments at our “Family Meetings” prior to dinner by Dr. Jason Miller bring relevance to our work and our guests. We do better when we see through new eyes.
Next week’s profile is on our Finance Director and Project Manager, W. John Kulwiec, Emeritus A.I.A.
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.”