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