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 However, a few older people within our Community were still quite comfortable with their outdated racism.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.

More Than Shelter

Starting coffee for the crew in the morning is a mundane task, after opening the gates and turning the heater on in our meeting room. Even after the heater has been off for a night of cold weather, the meeting room and adjoining galley are not too uncomfortably cold by morning. I do not give much thought to the unusually rainy weather right outside. After all, the rain is outside, and I am inside with coffee and a heater.

There is not much view from the window in the galley. The yard below is storage for several dumpsters. It is surrounded by a fence and the Memorial Grove. A busy road and associated bridge over Zayante Creek are just beyond that.

Since New Year’s Eve, some of us have been watching Zayante Creek from the window in the galley. The water is normally barely visible. Because of the storms, it had risen to within only a few feet of the yard downstairs on a few occasions. It will likely be about that high again by morning.

The bridge is prominent within the center of the view from the window. Under its closest corner, on this side of the road and on this side of Zayante Creek, I can see a site that had sometimes been inhabited by unhoused neighbors. It would be very unpleasant to be out there now, in the cold and damp weather, and also dangerous as Zayante Creek rises again overnight. It is very muddy there after getting submerged earlier.

I do not consider that much though. Instead, I remember how homey it was when friends lived there. Although it was not as comfortable as where I now observe it from, to more than a mere few, it was more comfortable than being out in the rain. Furthermore, it was where some people really lived, even if merely temporarily. They did much of what people do in homes, as if homes were unnecessary luxuries. Although I do not party like most, I attended a few celebrations there. I directly witnessed the extreme generosity and graciousness of others of society who had no business under such a bridge. Regardless of how pleased I am that almost everyone who had been unhoused back then presently resides within comfortable and stable domestic situations, I also miss some of how it was in what now seems to be history.

Discontinuance

Discontinuance of my other primary blog will be completely different from discontinuance of this blog last July. Articles from my weekly column will continue to post on that blog on Mondays and Tuesdays, so even without recycled old articles and all that other hooey in the future, some readers may not notice much of a difference. Realistically, that was what the blog was originally intended for.

Actually, I discontinued writing for the other blog quite a while ago. As for this blog, posts there are mostly recycled. Recycling is cheating, but writing occupies too much time that I could devote to other more important interests, such as gardening and travel. If I were to continue to devote so much time to writing, I should write books instead.

What makes discontinuance of each of these two blogs so completely different is that the primary remains relevant while the secondary does not remain as relevant as it originally was. The secondary was intended to “feature articles and insight about the distinguished small group of displaced or socially marginalized people and their friends in Felton”. So, there is not much to feature now that so few remain displaced or socially marginalized.

Of course, the situation is dynamic. A scant few remain displaced, although less socially marginalized than prior. A few others become displaced about as often as those who are already displaced procure domestic situations, although they are likely to encounter less competition for limited resources. Regardless, pursuit to obtain insight from so few would be intrusive.

Insight regarding those who had formerly been displaced or socially marginalized would be more relevant, but eventually, would not be particularly interesting. Many of us inhabit comfortable homes with modern utilities and conveniences. Many of us are gainfully and gratifyingly employed. Others doing so becomes mundane.

Good Times

Goodness!! Because this blog is now officially discontinued, I felt that I could write about anything that I wanted to write about. For tonight, I briefly explained why my other blog is also about to be discontinued. Well, at least the recycling of old articles and other hooey will be discontinued, while the timely posting of articles from my column will continue. By the time I finished, I realized that I wrote more about why this blog is discontinued, and it was not at all interesting. I delayed it until next week, and just might delete it before then.

Good Times seemed to be more appropriate for now. I was reminded of the old television show while in the Los Angeles region in September. My colleague pointed out J. J. in the neighborhood, but I embarrassingly could not remember who he is. Dynomite! Well, I will get over it. Anyway, the show was about the good times of a working class but somewhat impoverished family. I do not remember that their poverty was obvious, but am told that it was a prominent premise of the show. Some of us may identify with understated poverty.

Good Times was a spinoff of Maude, which was a spinoff of All In The Family, which was the show that The Jeffersons was also a spinoff of. That is too much confusing history for me to process, which is likely why I somehow mistook J. J. for a member of a family who lived in a deluxe apartment in the sky. That show was about a prosperous working class family who relocated to a more luxurious neighborhood while maintaining affiliation with their former Community. Some of us may identify with such affiliation for our Community, even after major modifications of lifestyle and possible relocation for such modifications.

So many of us who lacked domestic situations only a few years ago are doing well now. Some are doing remarkably well, and are remarkably prosperous. We know because we remain in contact with them. A formerly unhoused couple from our Community now owns a disproportionately large and unmortgaged home in Fremont, and restored their camper that they formerly lived in so that they can return to Felton to camp on their vacant parcel. They brought unhoused friends back to live in unused portions of their house. Another of our Community is a realtor, and lives in a luxurious home in a scenic region of Sedona in Arizona. A friend lives in another home nearby, but will likely return to Felton, particularly now that real estate is becoming more affordable. Another of our Community resides in a historic apartment in Watsonville, with the intention of returning to Ben Lomond or Felton. These are a few examples of those who are no longer unhoused within Our Community.

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.

Veterans Day

Veterans Day was last Friday. It was easy to miss. Some people attended Veterans Day parades or other observances; but such events lack publicity. They are not as popular as dressing kids up in offensive costumes to panhandle for candy on Halloween less than two weeks earlier. Priorities are perplexing.

Veterans Day (which really is spelled without an apostrophe) honors those who serve or have served in the military. It is different from Memorial Day, which honors deceased veterans, whether they died as a direct result of their service or afterward. So, Veterans Day is for living Veterans who are still members of our Community.

Yet, so many are homeless. So many can not afford to live here. So many lack social services that they could benefit from. The apparent social apathy for Veterans Day must be discouraging.

Fortunately, the formerly inordinate rate of homelessness among veterans is supposedly declining. Approximately 6.5% of people in America are veterans. According to some sources, only about 7% of homeless people in America are veterans, which is only about 0.5% more than the ratio of veterans within the general populace. In the past, according to some sources, the ratio was almost exactly double, at 13%. The rate of homelessness among veterans is approximately 2.1%. The rate of homelessness among the general populace is approximately 1.7%. The difference is only 0.4%.

Nonetheless, 2.1% of veterans is not zero. Nor is 1.7% of the general populace. The potential for improvement remains.

Only about four veterans had been prominently homeless locally since about 2013. Of these, two have inhabited homes for several years, one procured a stable domestic situation more recently (but is now deceased), but one remains homeless nearby. Regardless of his current situation, he was at least pleased to be honored on Veterans Day.

Declining Homelessness?!

A decline of homelessness within Felton is not too implausible. Felton is not a very populous town. Not many unhoused people live here. If one procures a stable domestic situation, it causes a nearly ten percent decline of homelessness.

If most procure stable domestic situations, as during the past few years, the decline is much more significant for Felton, although less significant regionally. In other words, such a localized decline does not accurately represent a more important regional trend.

However, when other towns and more populous cities also document even minor declines of homelessness, it suggests that such declines could potentially be the beginning of a trend.

Malibu collected statistical data regarding homelessness there last winter to determine that only a third as many as those who had been homeless a year earlier remained unhoused. That is gratifying information for those involved. Yet, as major as such a decline is locally, it is minor relative to the collective population of Los Angeles County. It is difficult to attribute this minor localized decline to a more broadly regional trend.

The possibility of a trend became more evident when cumulative data regarding homelessness within all of Los Angeles County confirmed an encouragingly major deceleration of the formerly rapid increase of the regional rate of homelessness. Like Malibu, a few municipalities confirmed minor declines of homelessness.

Could this be the beginning of a trend? Could the rate of homelessness be declining?

Orange County and San Francisco County also reported declines of homelessness. Statistically, relative to their respective populations, such declines seem to be minor; but even minor declines within such significant populations are surprisingly major.

Perhaps it is too early to recognize these declining rates of homelessness as a trend. It will be interesting to observe statistical data regarding homelessness within other Communities.

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!

BEST

(For reasons that I explained last week, this blog, Felton League, will be discontinued; but there are still a few old articles that can be recycled like this one from last October.)

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.

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.