Merry Christmas!

Jesus was homeless.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY! to Jesus. Merry Christmas! to everyone else.

For those of us lacking a domestic situation, winter, which started just a few days ago, is the most difficult of seasons. Even here in the locally mild climate, the weather gets cold and wet. It is much worse in cooler climates with snow! It can be difficult to be merry during Christmas.

Many of the unhoused are fortunate that those who are more fortunate share gifts of food, clothing, bedding and other necessities throughout the year, and particularly during winter, like the Three Magi shared gifts with the Holy Family of baby Jesus. The gold that the Magi presented must have been very helpful while the Holy Family was in their difficult situation. Frankincense and myrrh seem like odd gifts, but were presented by Magi who likely did not expect to find that Their Messiah had been born impoverished in a stable, while His Parents were between homes.

The Holy Family was homeless.

Whether depicted as three wise men or three kings, the Three Magi were relatively wealthy and respected within their respective societies, but came from significant distances to present gifts and worship baby Jesus, regardless of His social status.

Later in life, Jesus was homeless for His entire public ministry. He travelled about and procured lodging wherever He and His Disciples happened to be at any particular time. Benefactors must have been extremely generous to accommodate a group of thirteen! Jesus, while homeless, was revered by the vast majority of society who appreciated His teachings. He was, however, persecuted by the few who ultimately had Him crucified.

According to both Matthew (8:20) and Luke (9:58), “Jesus replied, ‘Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.’.”

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.

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.

October 10, 2021 – Memorial Tree Update

Memorial Tree – July 12, 2021

November 1, 2020, almost a year ago, was the last update for the resilient little Memorial Tree in Felton Covered Bridge Park. Since then, it began to develop a form that is more appropriate to the park parking lot that it inhabits, with a single straight trunk and a reasonably well structured canopy. (The illustration above is about three months old, from July 12, but the Tree has not grown much since then.)

Of course, the canopy will need to be pruned for continued structural development after it defoliates for winter. For now, lower growth remains somewhat obtrusive within the associated curbed parking lot island. This growth will be pruned up high enough so that no one must duck under it. As the tree matures, limbs that extend into the driveway beyond the curb must be higher than fourteen feet, so that they will not be obstructive to large vehicles. Slightly lower limbs are tolerable but undesirable over the adjacent parking spaces. Since the main trunk divides at about six feet above grade, main limbs must ascend rather steeply to attain clearance of more than fourteen feet above the adjacent parking spaces, which are only about three feet from the main trunk. Fortunately, the roadway is a bit farther than the adjacent parking spaces.

Sadly, the Memorial Tree was damaged as it was struck by a freighter truck that was too large to turn around in the parking lot. Fortunately, the damage is not as severe as it could have been. Only a bit of bark was scraped from the main trunk. The worst of the damage is a basal fracture, which should compartmentalize efficiently as growth resumes next spring. The Memorial Tree was staked and bound with a more resilient stake. Although such binding is not arboriculturally correct, it will be temporarily helpful through recovery. Hopefully, all binding can be removed within a year, but the new stake may remain with a loose strap afterward.

It has been gratifying to observe the Community popularity of the young Memorial Tree through all of its hardships. The Maintenance Staff of Felton Covered Bridge Park (the Santa Cruz County Department of Parks, Open Space and Cultural Services) has been very protective of it, and offered to replace it if it had been too severely distressed to recover from various former damages, as well as its recent altercation. While it was not expected to recover from brutal vandalism in June of 2020, a few members of the Community, including someone who now resides in Southern California, likewise offered to replace it. No replacement is necessary. It survives and somehow thrives.

Bad Journalism

There are two primary reasons why the brief articles that post here have been of less than exemplary quality for the past year or so. Actually, they have been of rather substandard quality. (Okay, they have been downright ‘bad’.) I would prefer to avoid such unpleasant description; but that would merely defer the obvious.

Firstly, the second of the two primary reasons for the compromised quality of posts here is the lack of time to devote to composing them. I am simply overworked. It is a long and irrelevant story. To be brief, I continue to write horticultural articles for a few newspapers between San Francisco and the Los Angeles Region, while also working as many as three days weekly to help maintain landscapes at a local Conference Center. I know that I should retire from such writing, but can not bear to do so. Nor do I want to relinquish the landscape maintenance work, which was actually intended to be only temporary (a long time ago). Both are very enjoyable, but also limit my potential for other obligations.

Secondly, the first of the two primary reasons for the compromised quality of posts here is the lack of subject matter. There simply is not much to write about like there had been only a few years ago. This blog was originally intended to provide insight regarding the homeless and socially disadvantaged Community of Felton. However, so many of those who had previously lacked domestic situations presently reside in comfortable and safe homes, with stable lifestyles. Many who had previously been unemployed are presently gainfully employed, and therefore able to sustain their respective lifestyles. Relatively fewer have become deprived of domestic situations or employment while relatively more have procured the same. The socially disadvantages Community of Felton has been doing remarkably well. Ultimately, this is a good problem to contend with.

Personal Aversion

As much as I want to go, I also slightly dread returning to Los Angeles next February. I have more than four months to plan my trip, in order to accomplish what I intend to do while there. It will be a vacation of sorts, with only limited professional obligations. There are a few touristy follies that I have somehow always neglected, which I will now prioritize. I should be completely pleased with anticipation. I almost am.

However, I do not want to observe the situation with the unhoused Community there. It has become so prevalent. It can be oppressively saddening to see so many people in such unpleasant conditions. Although most other social conditions of many regions of Los Angeles have improved since I first visited in about 1986, homelessness has increased substantially. It can not be ignored.

Some encampments of the unhoused have become somewhat perennial within their respective situations. Some have been established long enough for vegetable gardens to produce vegetables for more than a single season. Although most encampments are reasonably neat, some that are inhabited by those afflicted with severe mental illness are deplorable and hazardous. People should not live like that.

Furthermore, those who work and inhabit residential buildings (such as houses and apartments) in regions where homeless encampments are established should not need to contend with such hazardous and unsightly conditions, especially since living there requires such significant expenditure.

As difficult as homelessness seems to be in our Community, it is overwhelming in more populous Communities. There are no simple solutions.

That is the source of the slight dread associated with my return to Los Angeles. I intend to enjoy my vacation, but I also expect to be somewhat saddened at times. Society should have evolved enough by now to remedy such problems.

Live In Fear IV

This is becoming too much like a miniseries. To disrupt the monotony, we could consider the alternative to choosing to living in fear. After all, that is what most people prefer to do. They appreciate the Community in which we live. The climate and scenery are certainly assets also. Actually, there are many reasons why we live where we do. There are a few unpleasantries that occasionally instill major fear, such as the CZU Fire, the Loma Prieta Earthquake and the Love Creek Mudslide; but most of us prefer to fear them only when justified.

Society is certainly not perfect. That applies everywhere. There is always some degree of social problems such as crime, mental illness and homelessness. Few choose to live in fear of these imperfections. Most prefer to enjoy their particular society, and contend with social problems only as necessary. Precautionary measures, such as home security systems, are not necessarily indications of irrational fear, but are generally employed by those who prefer to be less concerned with undeniably present social problems.

Society certainly should not be completely derided for its innate imperfections. It is more than redeemed by its assets. Otherwise, people would not want to live in societies or Communities such as ours. To the contrary, most people in most Communities believe that their respective Community is the best of all, simply because they would prefer no other. That is likely how it should be, in a Community in which most choose to not live in fear.

Those with the least, particularly those lacking a domestic situation (the unhoused), can attest to how exemplary our local Community is. The graciousness and generosity exhibited here is astounding. It is understandable that so many of us believe that this is the best Community in which to live and participate.

Live In Fear II

“Those who choose to live in fear have the option of relocating to someplace where they do not need to live in fear.” I mentioned this last week, with a few examples of unpleasantries that those who choose to live in fear might otherwise choose to emigrate from. One example that I mentioned was, “If they fear houseless people, (…), they can relocate to someplace that is unpopular with (…) houseless people (…).

Does that seem harsh? It should not. Some of those who choose live in fear of the houseless commonly suggest that the houseless should relocate in order to accommodate them. If this is so easy or such a practical concept, then it should be just as easy or practical for those who choose to live in fear of the houseless.

After all, and contrary to what those who live in fear of the houseless claim, the majority of those who are houseless here are either native or have been here significantly longer than most of those who choose to live in fear of them. Many of those who live in fear of the houseless start complaining about it as soon as they arrive from somewhere else.

Those who choose to live in fear of the houseless should have become familiar with the local Community and society prior to deciding to immigrate. They should not have immigrated to a Community or society that is unsatisfactory for them.

Since so many of them believe that the houseless migrate here, they should migrate to where they believe the houseless migrate from. The houseless whom they choose to fear should be gone from there, since, according to those who choose to live in fear of them, they came here.

Those who choose to live in unrealistic or unjustified fear seem to be rather deficient of common logic.

Karen

From Karen

Seriously, that was her name. Karen. It was printed on her discarded baseball cap that was in the box of assorted trash that she tossed off the Graham Hill Road Bridge over Zayante Creek. There was some paperwork in the box too, which provided a bit more information. I was on the telephone and across the road at the gate of the industrial yard from where I work for part of the week when I saw her drop the box from the Bridge. I could neither yell to her while on the telephone, nor immediately end the call.

I did contact the sheriff though, as I walked across the road after ending the previous call. Prior to the discovery of identifying material, I doubted that anything could be done about the situation. Also, I did not want to trouble anyone with something that nothing could be done about. Nonetheless, I remembered that such crimes, even if minor, should be reported. The deputy who returned my call seemed pleased that I did.

Before I knew her name, I described Karen and what she was wearing. I also tried to describe a gentleman who was with her, but whom I had not seen much of. He walked ahead of her, as if embarrassed to be seen with her. I could not see a car that they drove there with; so they must have walked a considerable distance with the box of trash.

I also described how Karen and the gentleman she was with proceeded in the direction that they were going prior to dropping the box of trash, rather than back the way from which they came. I wondered if they had arrived from that direction previously, walked past, and then delivered the box as they returned. It was perplexing.

Of course, nothing could be done about this incident while it was necessary for deputies to prioritize more significant crimes. The box of trash was small enough to be collected and deposited into a dumpster within the industrial yard. Questions remain though.

Why did Karen drop her box of trash from the bridge?

Does Karen have a means with which to dispose of trash at home?

Did Karen leave the trash there so that homeless people would be blamed for it?

What is with Karen?!

Fuentes Residence – Pacoima

This is just too delightful to not share. The video in the original article is even better.

By CHELSEA EDWARDS Published June 18 (2021)

A homeless encampment in Pacoima, California has turned into an art piece after a homeless man turned a hillside along a freeway into a home that comes complete with art and gardens.

The property was build and landscaped along the 118 Freeway by 65-year-old Jose Fuentes. He’s originally from Colima, Mexico.

Nathaniel Padilla is the owner of Taco El Canelo, a restaurant that is next to the encampment.

Padilla says, “He said he was a gardener. So he did landscaping, so he got really good with his hands.”

He says it is becoming something legendary.

Padilla says, “People love it. I have people climbing up the mountain to go give them gifts like he’s like he’s baby Jesus almost. I have many people come out and ask me questions about what’s going on. ‘What is this? Is this like a memorial?’ No, it’s not. It’s just a creative man at work.”

Padilla says Fuentes helps keep the shopping center clean and they have a great relationship.

“Honestly, he never does anything to offend anybody. So we don’t have any reason to call any police or anyone to remove him from here. He’s a really, genuinely nice guy, and we’re happy to have him here,” Padilla says.

City Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez addressed the encampment in a statement, accusing the state highway department of being negligent in maintaining the area and says that she, “continues to seek Caltrans cooperation and support to maintain their right of ways and work with appropriate agencies to coordinate services for the unhoused who are living on state property.”

Caltrans says it is working with various partners to moved the unhoused into safer situations and that due to COVID-19: “Caltrans is proceeding with the encampment cleanups if there was an immediate safety concern or threat to critical infrastructure.”

Fuentes says that no one has ever asked him to leave The hillside or has offered him housing but whatever happens, he’ll keep his creative flair.

He says, “They take it away. We move on. We build another place.”