The End of the Road for Some – Week 469, January 10, 2018

I am very sad tonight. While a number of our unsheltered friends are very sick, I visited one today in ICU. She doesn’t have long to live and I was told family needed to come “now.” Thanks to Facebook and Messenger, I found them and sent the alarm.

She has two daughters, both educated. One has high credentials in academia but not able to save or even influence her mother’s habit of 30 years in drugs and on the streets.

She wanted a drink of water but none could be administered. She was told today she doesn’t have long to live and told me she is scared. We’ve had this discussion numerous times. She cried and lamented the years of bad choices that caused irreparable damage. I have followed her for 10 years, the ups and downs, the steps forward and back.

As I looked her, feeling waves of irritation mixed with compassion, sorrow and misery, I wondered what else we could have done. This I know. If housing of any kind had been made available, there would have been an opportunity for managed care which includes safe sleep, healthy food, yes, clean needles as she worked her way to clean and sober living.

In the end, she will die from a combination of cirrhosis of the liver, Hepatitis C and HIV, ulcerated limbs among other things, having likely contaminated many people along the way.

One day, two years ago, a very important person in the health care system for Ventura County moved a mountain and got her into the temporary system of managed care–just because I asked him to. In the end, against all hope, it wasn’t enough because it was temporary and that is because that is all there is.

When this is over, I will request a review of the cost of her health care within the system of the Emergency Room to help determine once and for all that the cost of one person like her can cost taxpayers a million dollars a year. It’s been proven true by many other homeless individuals.

The cost of a one bedroom apartment plus utilities would be about $15,000. Health care professionals by the dozens are attending her now, so even that cost would be reduced. The entire community would benefit from having a healthier individual not using city streets as a toilet and exposing other homeless people to this array of life threatening illnesses.

I will cry when she is gone. Her fight will be over but not mine. There are many who will fight on until one day there is enough political will within the healthcare system and community leaders to provide housing opportunities and managed care for those in the homeless population who want to live normal lives. Will some resist this opportunity? Yes, and that is because they aren’t ready to release the very demon that is killing them. Complex, isn’t it?

Meanwhile, we stay ready so that when they are, someone will answer.

Many Meals provides a weekly hot meal and food pantry and is a part of the Whole Person Care Program under the Ventura County Health Care Agency, led by Dr. Johnson Gill and attended by an amazing battalion of dedicated health care professionals. They are supported by a contingent of amazing mental health counselors and advocates led by Dr. John Schipper and assisted by the Behavioral Health Advisory Board, led by Elaine Crandall and Patrick Zarate. The weekly shower program is providing one more component of Whole Person Care. The connections made at the Richard’s Drop-In Center keeps the dots aligned as we bring services and caring people into the mix through the week, including Church in the Park on Sundays.

To conclude, tomorrow’s heartwarming and healthy meal is whole wheat spaghetti with homemade (mostly) spaghetti and generous amount of meat sauce, (thanks to the food rescue team to the Santa Paula School District) tangerines (thanks to our partners at Food Forward), hot buttered carrots thanks to Garman’s Pub, chips, cole slaw with raisins and pineapple thanks to Food Share.

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 www.smileamazon.com 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