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.’.”
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.
Wednesday, September 22, will be the first day of autumn. The nights have been getting a bit longer and a bit cooler for a while already, and will continue to do so for a while more. The rainy season could begin at any time. Although days begin to get longer on December 21, the first day of winter, weather continues to get cooler through the early part of winter. Indian summer may or may not delay the inevitable prior to November.
Most of us will spend more time inside as the seasons progress, perhaps with a fire in a stove or fireplace. Walls and ceilings retain warmth. Roofs exclude rain. The cooler and wetter weather of autumn and winter is generally not a serious problem. It is an asset to gardens and forests, and temporarily relieves the anxiety of fire season.
However, for those who lack walls, ceilings and roofs, the impending cooler and wetter weather can be very unpleasant. Options for generation of warmth, and the retention of such warmth, are both limited. Exclusion of rain may necessitate the use of obtrusively visible tents or tarps, which draw attention to already precarious situations. Those who reside temporarily within the dry spaces below bridges might be displaced if substantial rainfall overwhelms the drainage capacity of the associated creeks or river.
Several families who formerly inhabited homes that were destroyed by the CZU Fire last summer will continue to inhabit their respective properties without their homes through this autumn and winter. Some inhabit campers or similar vehicles, which are significantly more comfortable than tents. Regardless, houseless lifestyles of any sort are certainly not easy. Some who were deprived of their former domestic situations by the Fire are unable to inhabit their respective properties, so needed to relocate, even if just temporarily.
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.
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.
As mentioned last week, “Those who choose to live in unrealistic or unjustified fear seem to be rather deficient of common logic.” This is exacerbated by their ignorance of such deficiency, or worse, by their innate but unfounded belief that they are somehow more logical than others of the Community.
For example, many of those who choose to live in unrealistic or unjustified fear want all homeless encampments to be demolished without a plan for those who would be displaced by such demolition. They simply do not understand how important planning is, or that a lack of planning is contrary to the intended results of the unplanned demolition that they want.
No one wants homeless encampments within the Community. Those who inhabit such encampments, including the few who do not require domestic situations, would prefer more stable lifestyles. Neighbors understandably dislike the unsightliness. In some regions, the associated fire hazard is a major concern.
Logical people realize that the unplanned demolition of homeless encampments will not help any of the inhabitants of such encampments be any less homeless than they already were. They understand that the expensive process merely relocates the unsightliness of homelessness, but does not eliminate it. Logical people who are truly concerned about the fire hazard associated with homeless encampments would prefer to confine such hazard to less combustible and relatively manageable regions, rather than relocating such hazards to more combustible forested regions outside of town.
There are no simple remedies for all homelessness. Logical people understand that. Those who choose to live in unrealistic or unjustified fear do not, and some seem to be intent on preserving the very same dysfunction that they choose to fear with such dedication. Perhaps that is quite sensible. What would they do without the unrealistic or unjustified fear that they choose to live in?
“Bars on windows are a sign that I am in the wrong neighborhood.” I heard that a few times when I was a kid, mostly from people of my parents’ generation. It was not intended as disparagement of any particular neighborhood. It meant that relocation was a better option than installation of bars on windows.
I do not remember that anyone who said that actually relocated. Situations just never got that bad. Bars appeared on windows of a few businesses in some neighborhoods, but were eventually removed as people realized that the neighborhoods were not so bad.
Besides, some believed that bars on windows just informed potential burglars that there was something worth stealing within. Others believed that there was not much within their homes that burglars would be interested in. I believed that if a burglar wanted something within my isolated home, that bars would not stop him or her from taking it.
Most of us choose to not live in fear. We happen to live in an excellent place, and intend to enjoy it. It is certainly not perfect, and burglaries sometimes happen. We just do not allow such unpleasantries to dictate our lifestyles.
Those who choose to live in fear have the option of relocating to someplace where they do not need to live in fear. If they fear crime, they can go someplace where there is no crime. If they fear drugs, they can go someplace where there are none. If they fear houseless people, and believe that houseless people migrate to this region, they can relocate to someplace that is unpopular with the migratory houseless people whom they fear. Surely, there must be a place like that for them to go to. It is more practical than expecting those they fear to relocate for them.
There are more people who lack domestic situations in California than in any other state. Well, that should be obvious. There are more people in California than in any other state. 12% of all Americans live here. Even if the rate of houselessness were the same here as it is in other states, 12% of those who are houseless in American would live here. That is a significant number!
Since the rate of houselessness here is approximately double that of the rest of America, approximately 24% of those who are houseless in American should reside in California, although the actual ratio is approximately 22%.
This is not because houseless people migrate to California. More of the unhoused live in or near their hometowns than those who live within homes. Although the primary causes of houselessness are similar, albeit to various degrees, for most regions of America, the main difference is the cost of housing.
Homes and rents are ridiculously expensive here. It is extremely difficult for those who lose a home to procure another. If houselessness is the result of unemployment, it is very difficult for someone who lacks a domestic situation to procure new employment in order to procure a new domestic situation!
Recovery from houselessness is not nearly as difficult in other regions, even with significantly less income. Furthermore, since mortgages and rents are more affordable, it is not nearly as difficult to maintain a stable domestic situation in order to avoid becoming houseless. Many who live in poverty here can afford to directly purchase a home in other regions.
Not many houseless people migrate to California. More migrate from California to live in homes elsewhere. Unfortunately, they are replaced by more Californians who become houseless. Many prefer to stay in their respective home regions rather than migrate.
Derived from a misspelling and bad grammar, it is a fictitious place of the Peanuts comics. According to Charlie Brown, ‘Chateau du Mal Voisin’ translates from French into ‘Chateau of the Bad Neighbor’. Regardless of questionable syntax, it, in one form or another, is something that most of us can identify with.
The Chateau du Mal Voisin of the illustration here is fortunately not local. It is at the southeastern corner of the interchange of South Cochran Avenue and Venice Boulevard, just west of the Mid City district of Los Angeles. The picture was taken last December. The Chateau has been expanded extensively since then. Not only is it now larger than some of the two bedroom apartments on West Cologne Street in the background, but it has a spacious yard, a parking space for the occupant’s sedan, an ornate wrought iron security door, and, of all things, a mailbox. No building permits were issued. The resident pays neither a mortgage nor rent to live in this expensive neighborhood.
Those who do pay either a mortgage or rent to live here pay too much to contend with this in their neighborhood. Locally generated tax revenue is more than adequate to prevent this from happening, even if such prevention were to involve assuming the expense of providing more socially acceptable accommodations for the houseless. To be brutally blunt, this is unacceptable.
This certainly should not imply that the Community is not concerned for their houseless members. Like our local Community, the Mid City Los Angeles Community is remarkably generous and gracious in regard to helping their houseless neighbors improve their respective situations. In fact, that is what makes this Chateau du Mal Voisin so intolerable. It expresses a complete lack of appreciation for the graciousness of the Community.
Technically, people should not inhabit public spaces. The houseless do so only because they lack other options. Most attempt to be discrete and respectful of the Community, just as most of the Community is so respectfully accommodating and tolerant.
A Chateau du Mal Voisin such as this certainly confounds tolerance.
Many people lost their homes to the CZU Fire last summer.
A few homes were damaged or destroyed by trees and debris that were blown down by strong winds early last week.
Before all the damage could be repaired, and all the mess and clogged drainage could be mitigated, the rain started.
Now, an evacuation warning has been issued because wind and rain predicted for Tuesday night is likely to cause debris flows and perhaps flooding within or downstream from areas affected by the CZU Fire.
It seems to be so unfair that homes, which we expect to be reasonably safe and secure, can be so vulnerable.
We all know the risks associated with living here, but such risks do not often affect so many within such a short time.
In fact, the CZU Fire was the most destructive fire in local history, and involved the most significant evacuations.
Those of us who lack homes must contend with the risks associated with living here as well. Just as rain is a problem for anyone who can not repair a damaged roof in a timely manner, it is a problem for anyone who lacks a roof. The current evacuation warning is unlikely to affect locations inhabited by those who lack homes, but flooding of creeks or the San Lorenzo River might.
Most of those who had recently been deprived of their homes have fortunately procured residency elsewhere, even if just temporarily. Very few lack adequate shelter here. Of those who do, some inhabit sites that are close to water. Those who are in situations that will likely be inundated as creeks and the San Lorenzo River rise need to relocate. This will not be easy in the rain.
Fortunately, rain is not predicted for tomorrow (Monday).