January 1982 III

Actually, it was more like January 1987, five years after the floods that I mentioned last week. Actually, both the weather and the date are irrelevant. It was a long time ago, but at the time, it was the present. We lived in it. We had some minor plans for our futures and careers, but not much more. We were more concerned with enjoying our next few years at college.

At that time, my experience with racism was limited mostly to the animosity of a few of the older generation for the Vietnamese refugees whom I grew up with. Observing comparably limited but similarly barbaric behavior directed at my colleague because of his African American ancestry was like a different flavor of the same old hooey.

Our parents raised us better than that because of the time that they lived through. My colleague’s father graduated from law school and eventually became a Los Angeles County Judge through the Civil Rights Movement. Our parents did not want racism to be as difficult for us as it was for them. It was not. However, a few older people within our Community were still quite comfortable with their outdated racism.

Sexism was a completely new concept to both of us. Women’s liberation started about the time we were born, and had evolved significantly by the time we were in the third or fourth grade. However, we attended a college that had been an exclusively men’s school only three decades earlier. A few of our oldest professors were students there prior to that, and resented the admission of women.

Both racism and sexism have improved over the years, although racism fluctuates significantly more, and made a resurgence in recent years. However, about a decade ago, discrimination against the impoverished and unhoused became much more prevalent. It is as if those who hate must hate someone, or a group of someones. If they can not attach their innate hatred to race or gender, they direct it to a particular social class.

Fortunately, this sort of discrimination is declining much more readily than other forms of discrimination. After only a decade, it is beginning to become vilified like racism and sexism should have been a very long time ago.

HAPPY NEW YEAR 2023!

HAPPY NEW YEAR! The first day of it was certainly better than the last day of last year. It was so clear and sunny, and completely opposite of the torrential rain of the day earlier. The San Lorenzo River and Zayante Creek flowed at normal levels, without indication that they flooded less than a day ago.

Earlier flooding and mudslides were reminders of the potential for instability of stable domestic situations. Most homes within Felton Grove are elevated above such floods, but were evacuated nonetheless. Vehicles there needed to be parked elsewhere. A few roads nearby were blocked by erosion or fallen trees.

More storms are predicted for next week. Now that so much soil is becoming saturated, such storms could contribute to more erosion, mudslides and fallen trees, particularly in conjunction with wind. Additional flooding could also be possible.

Even if familiarity with the risks associated with living here is no deterrent, it makes such risks no easier. Evacuation is difficult. Flood damage or worse is even more difficult.

In some ways, such difficulties are more difficult for a few of those with more stability than for those with less. After all, such difficulties are much more likely to cause more substantial loss for those with more to lose.

Those who lack stable domestic situations may be very inconvenienced by severe weather and flooding, but they are somewhat inconvenienced regardless of the weather. Although most who reside within stable domestic situations are not even slightly inconvenienced by severe weather, a few may be severely inconvenienced, and some even lose their home entirely. It is how some people become unhoused!

Stability is generally preferable to instability. It is never absolute though. We all assume risks associated with living here, and do our best with what we have to work with.

There‚Äôs No Place Like Home

Some of us do not get out much. Perhaps the expense is unjustifiable or prohibitive. Perhaps work is too demanding. There are as many reasons for not getting out and about as there are for doing so. We all know that it can be fun, relaxing and healthy. We must also be realistic.

Realistically though, many or most of us realize that we happen to be in the best place that we could be in. Otherwise, we would be somewhere else that is perceived to be better. This is why those who indulge in vacations in other places return afterward. Not only is this home, but it is an excellent home. After all, many other people come here from elsewhere for their vacations.

Yes, this is biased, since most believe that their particular home is the best place to be. Most people who inhabit Los Angeles actually believe that they are in the best place to be; which is fortuitous, since millions of people searching for someplace better could cause this region to become unpleasantly crowded. Obviously, we tend to believe that there is no place like home.

Yet, regardless of obvious bias, it is impossible to deny that, besides being the best place for those of us who live here, this really is among the most excellent places in the entire Universe. The climate is perfect, with just enough winter without too much chill, just enough summer without too much heat, plenty of sunny weather, and only mild storms within a brief rainy season. Scenery is exquisite, with grand redwoods and the coast of the Pacific Ocean nearby. Society is remarkably diverse, accommodating and generous. There are too many advantages to being here to list. Even those who lack domestic situations know how fortunate we are to be here.

Lifestyles

As a casual and almost outside observer, I am fascinated by the lifestyles of others. I happen to be quite pleased with my lifestyle, but can totally understand why it would be unappealing to most. Also, I can understand why others are pleased with their particular lifestyles, although such lifestyles do not appeal to me.

It baffles me though, that some believe that their particular lifestyles should be desirable to everyone else. I would not recommend a lifestyle as simple and primitive as mine to anyone who would not appreciate it. I appreciate the same courtesy. It is presumptuous for someone to recommend a more complicated and modern lifestyle to me merely because it is what most supposedly prefer.

Besides, I do not observe many who are any happier with their particular lifestyle than I am with mine. To the contrary, I observe many who are less satisfied with their seemingly preferable lifestyles.

I do believe that most who lack domestic situations should prefer at least a bit more comfort in their lifestyles. When the weather gets as cool as it has been, warmth and some sort of enclosure to contain such warmth should be preferable. I also assume that plumbing is desirable, even though my own homes are equipped with only minimal plumbing. I really do not know though. Some or many of my presumptions could be partially or even mostly inaccurate.

I also believe that those who live in luxurious penthouses on top of skyscrapers in big cities should be happier with homes on ground level with spacious gardens. It is difficult for me to imagine why they choose to live in such expensive homes that lack so much. Nonetheless, they do so, while they can afford to live almost anywhere. Obviously, their chosen lifestyles appeal to them.

Pleasant Reminder

Attendance was good for the Work Day at Felton Presbyterian Church yesterday. It seemed to me that there were more participants than there typically are. However, there were noticeably fewer current and former members of the Homeless Community than there typically are. This is partly attributable to the declining rate of local homelessness. It is more attributable to new priorities of those who had formerly been unhoused or unemployed, but are now employed and involved with the responsibilities of domestic lifestyles.

By the end of the Work Day at noon, nearly everyone was working outside, likely because most of the interior tasks had been completed. Some of us stayed a bit late, more to catch up on what others had been up to since the previous Work Day than to get more done. It was gratifying to be asked about the Homeless Community in Felton. It was even more gratifying to not have much to say in that regard.

So many who had formerly lacked homes here have procured stable domestic situations during the past few years. So many who had lacked employment have become sufficiently employed to sustain their respective domestic situations. Homelessness as well as unemployment are not such prominent problems within our Community as they had been. Therefore, there is not much to say about it. Nor is there much to write about, which is why this blog has been discontinued.

Improvements within the Homeless Community should be gratifying to everyone within the collective Community, particularly those who have been so generous and proactive with implementing or assisting with such improvements.

Incidentally, although a declining rate of local homelessness seems to be inconsistent with the currently horrendous rates of homelessness throughout America, a few other Communities are also noticing a decline of homelessness, including, surprisingly, San Francisco!

China Town

China Town is not merely one town. It is a designation for particular districts of several Communities throughout the World. Many of such China Town districts were developed to accommodate immigrants from China who were unwelcome to inhabit portions of the same Communities in which they worked. China Town of San Francisco, which is the oldest major China Town in America, originally accommodated immigrants from China as they transitioned from mining and railroad construction to shipping and industrial work within San Francisco.

Such institutionalized discrimination confined development of many China Town districts to regions that were undesirable to others within their respective Communities. The last China Town of Santa Cruz was located within the floodplain of the San Lorenzo River, east of Front Street, mostly between Soquel Avenue and Cooper Street. It developed as a residential neighborhood after a fire destroyed a previous China Town in 1894. For the following half century, it was slowly replaced with more industrial development, until the Christmas Flood of 1955 destroyed the last few remaining residences.

Half a century later, the Benchlands Camp, which is inhabited by many of the unhoused of our Community, developed directly to the northwest of the former China Town, on the opposite side of the same floodplain of the San Lorenzo River. It is just as vulnerable to flooding as the former China Town was, but unlike the former China Town, occupies an area within a public park that is intended to be accessible to everyone of the Community. Very understandably, the Community wants to recover their public park space.

Incidentally, the Benchlands Camp developed as a result of the evacuation of the former Ross Camp to the southwest of the Highway 1 Bridge over the San Lorenzo River. The former Ross Camp was outside of a levee that excluded flooding, on otherwise unused land that is owned by Santa Cruz and California.

Bad Guys

According to a scant but annoyingly vocal few within Society, homelessness is necessarily synonymous with crime, violence and a variety of social deviancy, as if everyone who lacks a domestic situation conforms to such stereotypes. Similar misconception implies that such deviancy is mostly exclusive to the unhoused Community, and therefore less applicable to those who inhabit domiciles.

Simple omission of facts and data requires less effort than falsifying facts and data. It is not difficult to portray the most notoriously villainous or disreputable of the unhoused Community as representative of the entire unhoused Community. However, doing so is about as logical as associating everyone who inhabits domiciles with the most notoriously villainous or disreputable of those who inhabit domiciles.

These are some examples of unhoused people of historical significance who do not represent any more of the unhoused Community than any other component of Society:

Jesus Christ and His Twelve Disciples

Saint John the Baptist

Siddhartha Gautama Buddha

Mahatma Gandhi

These are some examples of housed people of historical significance who do not represent any more of the housed Community than any other component of Society:

Adolph Hitler

Joseph Stalin

Saddam Hussein

Idi Amin

Incidentally but interestingly, the majority of the most inhumanely socially deviant and evil people of history systematically perpetuated unfounded malicious stereotypes regarding their victims. Many continue to do so. It is how they justify their mistreatment of their victims, whether Jews, Christians, Shia Muslims or any other distinguishable group. If it becomes socially unacceptable to perpetuate malicious stereotypes about a particular group, another likely innocent group is pursued instead. For the inhumanely socially deviant and evil of Society, the abuse of their victims, whomever such victims might be, is much more important than truth or logic. It is one of several symptoms of their mental disorder.

Tax Season

Homelessness is expensive. It costs significantly more than twice as much as public education! More specifically, for each beneficiary, the average annual cost of services for or associated with homelessness is about two and a third times as much as the average annual cost of public education for each beneficiary. It is very understandable that so many are concerned about such expenditures of tax revenue.

Homelessness is also relatively rare, however, and therefore substantially less expensive collectively than public education. Because less than half of a percent of the populace is homeless, services for and associated with homelessness in California had been limited to approximately six billion dollars annually. Because approximately fifteen percent of the populace attends public schools, public education in California costs more than ninety five billion dollars annually. Therefore, public education costs almost sixteen times as much as homelessness.

Nonetheless, it is very understandable that a few who are unaffiliated with anyone who is homeless sometimes complain about the major expense of services for and associated with homelessness. What those who complain typically fail to consider is that, not only is the expense of public education much more substantial, but that those who are unaffiliated with anyone who benefits from public education are not exempt from such expense.

We all collectively pay taxes. We all lack control of how tax revenue is allocated. Everyone pays for everything. Those who do not drive cars pay for the maintenance of roadways. Those who disapprove of particular politicians and public servants pay for their salaries. Those who lack children pay for the education of the children of others. Those who live in homes pay for those who do not. It would be too complicated, and for some, prohibitively expensive, to pay only for justified expenses. Otherwise, those who already assume the major expense of raising children would also pay significantly more for their education.

Furthermore, children who benefit from public education generally pay no taxes yet, as almost all of those who are presently homeless have done in the past. As almost all publicly educated children will pay taxes in the future, most homeless people will eventually resume paying taxes as they recover from homelessness. Some homeless people have served in the Military, for a Society that includes a few who now complain about the relatively minor cost of providing important services for them, when they need such services most.

Privilege

Anyone can complain. Almost all of us do at one time or another. Some complain more than others, and a few complain much more than they should.

Conversely, anyone can be grateful. However, more of us complain than express gratitude or appreciation for countless privileges that are easily taken for granted.

Privilege becomes more obvious after observing cultures or lifestyles that lack such privilege. Refugees from Ukraine demonstrate how difficult deprivation of a stable lifestyle is. So do the houseless within our own Community.

This article, ’40+ People Are Sharing the Signs of Privilege That Often Go Unnoticed’ by Dawn Schuster, August 12, 2021, lists several privileges that are commonly taken for granted within almost all of modern American Society. It is difficult to imagine life without some of them. Nonetheless, some within our Community presently survive without several of the most basic of these privilege. These are a few examples:

privacy or abode – Regardless of their effort, the houseless live in public. There is nothing private about it. Some live in remote areas. Some construct rudimentary structures. However, any of such abodes can be violated at any time.

running water – Although water is available to most of the houseless, it is generally inconvenient to access, or is very limited. It is not easily transported to remote locations where many houseless live. The houseless must go to the sources of water to use it, or collect what they can transport.

uninterrupted power supply – Compensation for a lack of utilities in conjunction with an unstable lifestyle is not as easy as it might seem to be. Fuel for heat is expensive and cumbersome to transport for those who lack a vehicle. Because abodes lack insulation, significant volumes of such fuel are necessary. Batteries for lighting are expensive.

food and choices – Although there is generally sufficient food for the locally houseless who can not afford much, choices are rather limited. Without utilities, frozen food can not be stored for long, and cooking may not be possible.

personal transportation – A vehicle is a major expense that most of the houseless can not afford. For those who can afford a vehicle, parking without a garage or designated parking space can be quite difficult.

physical safety – The houseless are the most vulnerable of society. They are outside and exposed to the elements most of the time. While inside, their abodes generally lack the security of conventional homes.

garbage disposal – Although the houseless generate less trash than those who reside in homes, they certainly generate some. Such trash is cumbersome to remove from some of the isolated situations which some of the houseless are compelled to inhabit. Fortunately, some neighbors allow the houseless to use their dumpsters, or procure dumpsters for large encampments of the houseless.

sewage system – Although not much of a problem in smaller Communities, where business owners and even some homeowners can allow the few local unhoused to use their bathrooms, it is a major problem for more significant Communities, in which there are too many housless to accommodate.

washing machines – A washing machine would not be much use without water or electricity anyway. Laundromats are so expensive.

internet – Although available to the houseless who have use for it, the internet is not as readily available as it is for those who reside in homes. Some use it at resource centers. Some rely on libraries. Those who own laptop computers sometimes use Wi-Fi at coffee shoppes or fast food establishments.

fridge – Like a washing machine, a refrigerator is not much use without electricity. This limits the potential for the storage of food.

enough money – This is one of the primary causes of houselesness. Many people with significant resources and income lack sufficient money for rent or a mortgage.

no discrimination – Houseless people are regularly victims of discrimination. It is as if many of those who would have been racist years ago, but can not be so in modern society, discriminate against the unhoused. It is as wrong as any other form of discrimination.

no trauma – Houslessness is traumatic. In conclusion of this seemingly extensive but actually brief list, this should be obvious, and necessitates no additional explanation.

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.