It Worked For Me

Job interviews necessitate a certain degree of decorum. I was over it. I had left work that I never should have left, and a revered colleague, for what he and I thought was a better opportunity. It was disastrously nothing like it was supposed to be, and left me in no hurry to accept another so-called job. I could have been satisfied with my work as a garden columnist. When I resigned to interviewing for another secondary job, I did not put much effort into the process. Instead of explaining my credentials, expertise and qualifications, I explained what I would NOT do. After my previous experience, I had quite a list to present, and was quite a jerk about doing so. It worked for me.

Within the context of Community discussion of issues regarding homelessness, someone occasionally feels compelled to explain his (or her) experiences, observations or even opinions as if they are universally relevant. For example, an addict in recovery might explain how he (or she) came to recovery after ‘hitting bottom’, and becoming homeless without assistance from those whom he had already exploited. Because it is so relevant and important within his experience, he believes it to be just as relevant and important to others, or even everyone with a few similarities to their respective experience. He believes that since ‘it worked for me’, it must necessarily work for everyone.

Recovery from addiction, although commendable, is irrelevant to those who are not addicted. Most people who are presently homeless here became so as a result of unemployment or income that is insufficient to sustain a mortgage or rent, not because of addiction. Homelessness and addiction are two completely different concerns. Belief that what worked for any individual would necessarily be effective for everyone is both presumptuous and ignorant.

Grumpy Old Men

Felton Covered Bridge has not changed much in the last half century or so. The new roof looks very much like the roof that was replaced. The extensive repair of damage caused by the flood in 1982 is difficult to discern from original materials and technique. A picture that my Pa took of my siblings and I in the southwestern window of the Bridge when I was just a little tyke, and too short to see over the sill, demonstrates that the particular window looks the same now as it did half a century ago. In fact, much of Felton looks somewhat as it did back then, or is at least somewhat recognizable.

Other towns have not been so fortunate, or unfortunate, according to perspective. Some of us perceive change as an asset or improvement. Others perceive it as a loss of original assets. Both perceptions are both variable and accurate; as well as variably accurate. In other words, some change is good, but other change is bad; and we each assess it by our own distinct standards.

My colleague in the Los Angeles region appreciates how Los Angeles and some adjacent towns have developed since we were kids. West Hollywood, which was quite shabby when it incorporated in 1984, has since developed into quite a ritzy community. Watts, which we still remember as a neighborhood to avoid, is now getting to be hip and trendy again, and one of the better regions in which to invest. The skyline of downtown Los Angeles is spectacular, and comparable to older big cities of the East.

Unfortunately, so many of these improvements have made the region less ‘livable’ for those who do not earn more than average income. Those who earn what had been average income can no longer afford to live there. Homelessness has consequently become overly common, as it has in Santa Cruz County.

My colleague, I and the rest of our generation have been around for half a century. That is quite a while. Things change significantly in that much time. There have been many changes that we are displeased with; but there are many that worked out quite nicely. People who are young now will experience the same during their next half century or so.

When I consider what my ancestors, and particularly my colleague’s ancestors, contended with in their first half century, as well as afterward, I realize that I should not complain. They experienced change that I can not comprehend, both good and bad. Although I can remember when less than half a million people lived in San Jose, my great grandparents remembered when San Jose was a relatively small town of about 20,000 residents, and all the unpleasantries associated with such extreme urban development afterward. Although my colleague down South still encounters mild racism on rare occasion, his father, who is of African descent, began his career as an attorney during the middle of the Civil Rights Movement, and even as he served as a Judge for Los Angeles County, endured racism and discrimination that younger people can not comprehend. Obviously, earlier generations endured much worse.

Society continues to evolve. Although it is unlikely that homelessness will be remedied any more efficiently than primitive racism has been, the presently extreme rate of homelessness must change. Society can not continue in such disgrace.

Forge Of Empires

“In the browser game Forge of Empires you can build your own city and experience all of history from its perspective – from the stone age on through the centuries. Explore new technologies that ring in a new era. Leave a mark with unique, contemporary buildings and establish a gigantic metropolis that is unparalleled anywhere. Increase your empire with sophisticated strategic campaigns and skilled actions in Forge of Empires. Create your own world: Forge your Empire!”

That certainly sounds compelling. I can think of all sorts of features that I would want to incorporate into a Community if I were to create it. I can think of almost as many features that would not be incorporated. Of course, it is all very unrealistic. No one person can create a city or any other Community. That requires the cooperation of countless others, particularly the members of the particular Community.

More than a million people live in San Jose. Each of those people contribute something to society, whether good, bad or both. They all create their own history, and some of it affects others in society. New technologies are occasionally invented or introduced. New homes and other buildings get constructed, with various architectural styles. Perhaps the same could be accomplished by fewer than a million people; but such tasks are impossible for just a single person.

Each individual is a more substantial component of a less substantial populace. For example, each resident of the main part of Felton is more than .00025% of the populace. That may not seem like much, but it is significantly more than one in a million in San Jose. Therefore, the contributions of each resident are more significant.

Again, that can be good, bad or both. The rules are the same for a smaller town as they are for a large city.

Although I may dislike the architectural style of a new home in the neighborhood, others may like it. Perhaps more like it than dislike it. Is that good, bad or both? Does it matter? The residents of the new home must like it, and, within reason, that is more important in a society that is not created by a single person.

Personally, I dislike homelessness within my Community. I want everyone to be accommodated within some sort of domestic situation. Most of the homeless likely need only affordable accommodation. I suspect that most people in any Community also dislike homelessness, but are unable to do much about it. Community is no video game.

4.4

Google Reviews assigns 4.4 of 5 stars to Felton Covered Bridge Park. That is the average of the ratings of 480 reviews. Only 18 of these 480 reviews, which is less than 4%, mention ‘homeless’. Regardless of such mentions, these 18 reviews generate an average rating of more than 3 stars, with only 3 assigning 1 star, but 3 assigning 5 stars.

Haters prefer to portray Felton Covered Bridge Park very differently. They neglect to consider its innate assets that others appreciate, but complain almost exclusively about a few mostly minor problems, and blame such problems on homeless people. Haters are merely a scant few of the thousands who live here, but believe that they represent the majority.

Incidentally, haters seem to have generated few, if any, of the current 480 Google Reviews that mention ‘homeless’. These review seem to have been composed mostly by people who visited from other regions, and generally expressed legitimate concerns, even if somewhat exaggerated.

These are the 18 current Google Reviews of Felton Covered Bridge Park that mention ‘homeless’, arranged from least stars to most, with commentary:

1 STAR – a year ago

We decided to take the kids to the park near this covered bridge. I curiously started walking thru the bridge and ran into a few homeless people who were mumbling and saying strange stuff, so I walked back to the park and sat and started seeing a number of homeless people in the area. I won’t be back anytime soon.

* Fortunately, this unpleasant person ‘won’t be back anytime soon’. When this posted a year ago, most of those who lacked domestic situations here had lost their respective homes to the CZU Fire. Most of the previously ‘homeless people’ had secured domestic situation by that time. If they all had gathered together on Felton Covered Bridge, there would have been only a ‘few’, as described, but with none remaining to appear within the Park afterward. Perhaps a few too many were misidentified as ‘homeless’ because they did not conform to the discriminating standards of the observer. Perhaps it is still impolite to eavesdrop.

1 STAR – 2 years ago

Unfortunately I have to give it only one star.i used to love it there until the homeless took it over. Don’t get me wrong there always have been homeless people there, unfortunately some of them are very vulgar and loud. It’s very hard to take your kids or grandchildren their without them hearing vulgar words and seeing things they shouldn’t see.

* Children hear more egregious language and see more egregious activity online, on television and in movies than they experience at Felton Covered Bridge Park. Even the spelling, punctuation and capitalization of this review could be considered to be slightly egregious. Although a few people who are not necessarily ‘homeless’ behave inappropriately on occasion, their activity is no justification for depriving children of a Park that is intended for everyone to enjoy. There are less people who are ‘homeless’ here now than there had been. They have not taken over Felton Covered Bridge Park.

1 STAR – 3 years ago

Love it except for all the homeless taking over! Feels unsafe to walk around!

* As mentioned above, the ‘homeless’ are not taking over. It is only unsafe to walk around because of gophers.

2 STARS – 3 years ago

Nice place but there is a homeless population that uses the park quite essential they keep to themselves but occupy picnic tables and benches through out the park

* Punctuation would have been useful within the context of this review. Apparently, or seemingly, someone feels entitled to the exclusive use of all of the picnic tables and benches within Felton Covered Bridge Park, and does not want to share with others within our esteemed Community. There are more benches and picnic tables than there are homeless people. They could not occupy all of them if they tried.

2 STARS – 4 years ago

This park was small and disappointing. It has a lot of potential but it is dirty and filled with the homeless. It is clear that Felton is not keeping food place up or providing better services for the unfortunate people who find themselves sleeping in the park.

* It is unfortunate that someone is disappointed with Felton Covered Bridge Park. It is actually dirty, but only because it is constructed on top of . . . dirt. It is not filled with ‘the homeless’ though, and was not so filled even four years ago when this review was composed. No one sleeps there. Food is readily available, but irrelevant in this regard.

3 STARS – 2 years ago

The covered bridge park is a place I have been coming since I was a baby. It is a nice spot to have a picnic, and it is right across the street from safeway. The bathroom situation is a little sketchy, being only porta potties that are also used by junkies and homeless.

The park in general is kept clean and safe. But there is an uneasy drug presence at the end of the park where the houses all are. This is a great spot to go in the daytime, and the bridge is beautiful, majestic and historic. I would try to avoid it past sundown, but the park is closed anyways so there is no reason to go…

The county is good at keeping the park equipment updated and clean, I have never come here thinking it was old and out of date.

* This review is not so bad. The only oddity is that it expresses a concern that ‘junkies and homeless’ use the ‘bathroom situation’. The situation would likely be worse if they did not do so. Vandals who vandalize the ‘bathroom situation’ should be more of a concern.

3 STARS – 3 years ago

I love this park so much, and I’m very sad to say that it’s becoming unsightly and dangerous due to the homeless encampments in the wooded areas around the park. Trash, illegal bonfires, drug dealing, and fights are commonpiece these days and I no longer feel safe walking to my neighborhood shops through the covered bridge due to harassment from occupants drunk and/or high on meth and heroin. Almost every morning I pick up the trash strewn about the dumpsters by scavengers looking for cans… I wish the local law enforcement would take steps to restore the safety of this beautiful neighborhood.

* Of these 18 reviews, this one features the most fallacies, and blames them all on those who lack domestic situations. No one camps ‘in the wooded areas around the park’. Trash is not exclusive to homelessness. If bonfires, drug dealing and fights were so common and attributable to homelessness, than at least one of the other 480 people who composed reviews should have made similar observations. Credibility is too compromised to sustain claims of harassment by people who are impaired by alcohol or illicit narcotics, or that scavengers scatter trash. This Community is very safe.

3 STARS – a year ago

The bridge itself is very nice, but in the bridge there was a homeless person sleeping and two others in the entry

* This review does not explain how the ‘two others in the entry’ qualify as ‘homeless’. If they were also asleep, then they were likely also ‘homeless’. Otherwise, they may have merely been mistaken as such because they did not conform to the discriminating standards of the observer.

3 STARS – 4 years ago

This is a great park for taking a stroll, or a nap, but not for sleeping in overnight if you’re homeless or a crusty traveler. Get a bagel across the street and try to make it up to SF or down to Santa Cruz.

* This review is just weird.

3 STARS – 3 years ago

Small park…beautiful historic covered bridge to walk over..Lot of homeless hang out and sheriff runs them off…

* Even when this review was composed three years ago, there were not a ‘lot of homeless’ here.

3 STARS – 2 years ago

This is a good family park. There is a play area for children, and large lawns to run and play. The Redwood trees, the river, and Felton Covered Bridge add to the special ambiance here. It is a place where one can put down their phone and experience some of the other important things in life…. if one would want. There are sometimes homeless here. They seem to enjoy the nature of these woods also.

* That seems to be accurate.

4 STARS – 2 years ago

Gorgeous bridge and nice playground but the drunk homeless looking folks getting arrested kind of brought the mood down. The police seemed to make a lap around the park rousting anyone who looks homeless or are drinking, like they do it all the time. Would have been perfect if not for the police presence and arrests (they were peaceful arrests).

* Actually, the deputy sheriffs do not roust anyone merely for being or appearing to be homeless. Although this review attributes nothing directly to homelessness, it does not describe what ‘homeless looking’ is either.

4 STARS – 4 years ago

Nice park, great historic bridge, but Santa Cruz is famous for homeless, and this place is no exception.

* That is credible.

4 STARS – a year ago

Very historic (but there was a homeless dude in there lol)

* This is also credible. Homelessness should not be so amusing though.

4 STARS – 4 years ago

Nice park but to many homeless.

* Perhaps even just a few homeless people are to(o) many for some observers.

5 STARS – 5 years ago

Great park for the kids to play at. You will have to over look the homeless that like to hangout there. They really are ok people, kind and respectful for the most part.

The kids will have a great time playing there.

* How nice!

5 STARS – 2 years ago

Felton is a place to go covered bridges where I go to walk my dogs everyday or every other day if I can homeless people are no bother well mannered and polite

* This review is nice also, even without punctuation.

5 STARS – 5 years ago

Beautiful and peaceful. I love the homeless that live around there.

* Ah!

Memorial

An obituary typically precedes a memorial, to inform the Community of a subsequent memorial. In retrospect, the memorial was at 3:00 last Saturday afternoon at the Footbridge Service Center, at 150 Felker Street in Santa Cruz. Those of us in Felton only became aware of it two days prior, on Thanksgiving Day. Time was insufficient to gather the information that is necessary for the composition of an obituary.

Besides, it is not easy. It is downright difficult. I will not even attempt to compose an obituary now. It will take a few days.

To be perhaps disrespectfully brief, our old friend, David Lindberg of Boulder Creek, while asleep early in the morning of November 13, succumbed to infection associated with a scorpion bite. He had attempted to meet with a physician at HPHP (Homeless Persons Health Project) during the previous day, but arrived late, so intended to return during the following morning. He had not perceived the infection to be severe enough to justify seeking emergency medical attention at Dominican Hospital earlier. He was fifty five years old, and living unhoused in Santa Cruz at the time.

What began as a single Steven Michael Ralls Memorial Tree, is developing into a grove too quickly. At the beginning of the rainy season, another Monterey cypress was to be added for another old friend who succumbed to cardiac arrest last year. Now, a third Monterey cypress must be added for David Lindberg. Fortunately, two more Monterey cypress will be assets to the landscape. However, it is saddening that they are necessary. Although death is an unavoidable consequence of life, it seems that too much of it has been happening during the past few years. Perhaps that is a consequence of remembering.

Thankful

There is so much to be thankful for. It sounds cliche, and it is easy to forget while there is obviously so much to potentially be unhappy about. Fortunately, neither is contrary to the other. For example, it is quite normal to be unhappy about the loss of a stable domestic lifestyle. However, those who are houseless here can still be thankful to reside within such a compassionate and proactively supportive Community.

There is no shortage of friends here. Those who temporarily lack employment here are often hired by neighbors and friends, even if merely for minor tasks, and even if merely temporarily until more appropriate employment becomes available. Neighbors and friends sometimes provide temporary shelter to those who need it, and were particularly generous about doing so after the CZU Fire. Neighbors and friends here are innately gracious with sharing their resources with the less fortunate who would likely experience very different reception within the context of another Community.

There is more than Community to be thankful for. The mild climate, which is pleasant to those who inhabit homes, is more of a major advantage to those who lack shelter. The availability of free resource, such as food and clothing, prevent those of us who temporarily lack personal resources from experiencing unfounded hunger or becoming uncomfortably shabby. Tents and bedding are available to those who need them.

We should also be thankful for the rare but aberrant haters. They remind us of some of what we should be thankful for. We should be thankful that we are not so disdainful of humanity that we are compelled to disregard that which we should be thankful for in the diligent pursuit of dehumanizing others. We should be thankful that we are not like haters. We should be thankful to be thankful.

Misconceptions

“Hola!”, was an unexpected greeting from a notably pallid bank teller in Santa Cruz with whom I expected to deposit a check. I paused briefly, and before I could ask if he could speak to me with English, he asked, “Hablas ingles?”. I paused again, and replied, perhaps with a Californian accent, “Yes; do you?”

As he efficiently adjusted his linguistic obligation and conducted the transaction, I felt compelled to mention that, on rare occasion, my complexion generates such misconception. I probably should have said nothing, and avoided the subsequent discourse.

“Where are you from?”, he asked.

“Here.”

“No, I mean where are you parents from?”

“Here, . . . Sunnyvale and Santa Clara.”

“Where were they originally from?”

As I wondered why white people believe that they and their ancestors were here before anyone else, I briefly explained that my very distant ancestors came to North America from Europe while all sorts of other Caucasians were doing the same; and that my complexion was inherited from ancestors who left Italy a very long time ago. None of my ancestors spoke Spanish.

“Do you know people in the ‘Old Country’?”, he invariably asked.

“. . . Well, . . . since just about everyone I know lives in California, YES!”

Misconceptions associated with homelessness are much more bothersome, and are sometimes used to justify potentially serious discrimination and mistreatment. ‘Homeless’ simply describes a lack of a home. It describes neither reasons nor symptoms of such lack.

Although some stereotypes of homelessness are more likely to apply to some who are homeless than those who are not, they are neither exclusive to the homeless Community, nor inclusive of everyone within the homeless Community.

For example, addiction is more common among the homeless Community merely because so many who are addicted to some sort of ‘substance’ are more likely to become homeless as a result of such addiction. However, many and actually most who are afflicted with addiction inhabit homes. Furthermore, many who are homeless are not afflicted with addiction.

Only a few residents of Felton are presently homeless. If all of them but no one else were afflicted with addiction to some sort of ‘substance’, then such addiction would involve only a few residents of Felton. Obviously, such addiction is a much more significant problem, and the majority of those afflicted with it inhabit homes. Yet, those who inhabit homes are not necessarily stigmatized as addicts simply because they inhabit homes as the majority of addicts do.

Generalizations generally do not apply to everyone they are intended to apply to, and can initiate inaccurate misconceptions. Everyone has a unique story.

The Good Life

We have it good here. It is not always easy, and it sometimes gets difficult, but generally, we have it good.

That is not much consolation for many of those who formerly inhabited homes that were destroyed by the CZU Fire more than a year ago. Nor does it seem like much help to those who were deprived of their former domestic situations for other reasons, or are currently involved with such processes. It might not become apparent until after recovery. 

The potential for recovery might be an early clue to how good the situation here is. The Community is so remarkably compassionate and supportive. That is why so few of us lacked domestic situations prior to the CZU Fire. The Community commonly assists the unhoused with procurement of habitation, even if just temporarily. Also, the Community sometimes assists the unemployed with employment to sustain such habitation.

Furthermore, no one goes hungry for long here. Food Distribution (between 11:00 a.m. and noon on Thursdays) at Community Bridges provides supplemental sustenance for those who have need for it, and is remarkably generous with surplus produce. Although it can not supply all necessary sustenance, it assists those with limited resources by offsetting their expenditure on particular grocery items. Although Felton Presbyterian Church and Saint John’s Church are still (temporarily) unable to serve Community lunches at noon on Tuesdays and Thursdays respectively, both continue to provide bagged lunches at the same times.

Not all Communities are so compassionate or accommodating. Some Communities are unable to accommodate everyone who is in need and receptive to assistance. It is saddening to observe the substantially more deplorable situations that some of the unhoused of Santa Cruz, Watsonville and San Jose must contend with. However, it does remind us that we have it good here.

All Saints’ Day

Halloween is over! Goodness! It is such a weird indulgence of degenerate behavior! Children are actually encouraged and expected to dress in costume, perhaps ghastly or shabby by design, and tour their respective neighborhoods to engage in aggressive panhandling. Some of their parents, perhaps outfitted with comparably inappropriate attire, or worse, shamelessly attend debaucherous parties.

This is fun?! This is socially acceptable?! Well, it should afford significantly more respect for those who request donations on the Pacific Garden Mall because they lack other options. They waste neither resources nor effort on their possibly shabby attire. Nor do they come to our porches at night expecting handouts.

Anyway, it is now All Saints’ Day. It will be All Souls’ Day tomorrow. In many cultures, both days are All Soul’s Day, or something similar with a different name. Regardless of the name, All Saints’ Day is one of only six Holy Days of Obligation. Halloween is merely the day prior to All Saints’ Day. It is what Christmas Eve is to Christmas. However, although almost everyone in America knows what Halloween is, not so many know what All Saints’ Day is.

How many of us are aware of what Saint Patrick’s Day is? Why is Cinco de Mayo such a minor holiday where it actually has some relevance in Mexico, but is just another excuse for drunken partying here? Has partying become so important on the Fourth of July that we forget that it had formerly been Independence Day? Mardi Gras really should be a day for (responsible) indulgences, but has somehow become more important than subsequent Ash Wednesday and forty days of fasting and abstinence from such indulgence during Lent.

Society can be impressively creative with justification for unfounded indulgence. A few in society can be remarkably selective with such justification.

BEST

B-enchlands E-stuary S-tewardship T-eam is the BEST! They remove both trash and invasive exotic (nonnative) plants from the portion of the San Lorenzo River that flows through Santa Cruz and into Monterey Bay. Some team members are residents of the Benchlands Encampment at San Lorenzo Park or nearby neighborhoods. Some are members of the Santa Cruz Downtown Streets Team, which also collects trash elsewhere in Santa Cruz County, including here in Felton. All are volunteers.

BEST was organized in response to concern about the sensitive ecosystems of the San Lorenzo River, and, among other issues, the consequences of habitation by unhoused residents within such ecosystems. Direct involvement of the associated unhoused residents not only utilizes their coordinated volunteer efforts as a primary resource, but also provides them with ecological and environmental insight, which is a collective asset to the local unhoused Community. Others of the local unhoused Community are more likely to respect the sensitivity of the ecosystems in which they reside if they are more aware of how detrimental some of their activity can be to such ecosystems, or if they are aware that others within their particular Community take the initiative to mitigate some of the consequences of potentially detrimental activity.

For a distinctly socially disadvantaged segment of the Community, BEST provides opportunity for social, as well as environmental, contribution and improvement. This is more than socially and personally gratifying. It is healthy!

For the distinctly disadvantaged animal and plant life that inhabits and interacts with the associated ecosystems, but is unable to defend them, BEST does what it can to alleviate various ecological incursion, and promote recovery. So, BEST is not only healthy for the human participants, but is also healthy for the native flora and fauna of the intricate ecosystems of the San Lorenzo River Estuary.