Minimal Turnout

Big crowds are proportionate to the popularity of an event. They are sort of expected at exhibits of famous art, important baseball games, and Aaron Tippin concerts. There was quite a crowd at the Felton Remembers Parade and Covered Bridge Festival.

Smaller events draw much smaller but relatively significant groups. It is always nice to see children celebrating birthday parties in Felton Covered Bridge Park. Community Bridges (Mountain Community Resources or MCR) still does play dates for children there as well.

Our group is very unique. We get good turnout for our special events too, if we plan ahead for them, and extend invitations. Otherwise, for regularly scheduled events, such as lunch at Felton Presbyterian Church on Tuesday, and lunch at Saint John’s on Thursday, minimal attendance is an indication that more of us are doing well, and are unable to attend because we are at work, or busy with other responsibilities.

It is not as if we are an exclusive group that others want to be members of. Although just about anyone can join, most do so only out of necessity, but prefer to move onto better situations.

There were more of us in 2013 than there are now. Those who have joined our group since then have been less numerous than those who have found homes and employment. There are now fewer of us than there have been in a very long time. In that sense, minimal membership is a good thing.

It is unfortunate that this is not a common trend in most other places. Some of the same social difficulties that are less prevalent here than they had been are instead becoming more common elsewhere, particularly in more substantial towns and big cities, such as San Jose, Watsonville and Monterey. Are we doing something differently here?

Memorial Day Irony

Back in about 2013, it was much more socially acceptable to discriminate against the homeless, anyone who looked homeless, or just about anyone who could be implicated as an affiliate of the homeless, whether or not such implication was accurate. Anyone getting off a bus with a backpack might have learned how quickly sheriff deputies responded to ‘multiple reports’ of someone suspicious. How contrary to our formerly idyllic culture!

The animosity of a mere few for the homeless and their affiliates is what justified the removal of all the barbecues and one of the picnic tables from Felton Covered Bridge Park, and is why barbecuing is now illegal there. Those who do not drink alcohol were often accused of inebriation or worse. There were false accusations that some homeless lived in tents in the riparian zone of the San Lorenzo River within Felton Covered Bridge Park.

2013 was a long time ago. Not many remember the major hostility of a minor group at that time. To the contrary, we remember the remarkable and consistent generosity and civility of our Community. After all, it is our Community that has always provided so much of whatever we need, and for many of us, provided employment and homes. The Community is why homelessness is much less of a problem than it was six years ago in 2013.

Tomorrow will be Memorial Day. Yesterday was the annual Memorial Day celebration; Felton Remembers Parade and Covered Bridge Festival. Not many remember what should be memorialize on Memorial Day, but it was an excellent celebration nonetheless. Beer was sold from that navy blue tent amongst all those other tents. Freshly cooked and grilled food was sold next to the parking lot, out of view to the left of this picture. Beer, tents, grilled food and irony.

Picnic In The Park With Some Homeless Folks – July 30, 2015

This article from the Press Banner is the best ever about this particular topic, which was an issue that concerned Felton League back in the summer of 2015. The main text is pasted below, but without the excellent picture or the interesting comments. The chronology of the comments can be difficult to follow, but each comment is outfitted with the date and time at which it was posted. Of course, some of the comments were deleted.

July 30, 2015 – Press Banner – Suellene Petersen

It would have been nice if a table had been available for the food, but Jonney Hughes explained that the maintenance people from the Santa Cruz County Department of Parks had removed the one that used to be in that spot.

“They said they were going to fix the table and bring it back, but we could not see that anything was wrong with it,” explained Hughes.

The picnic was spread on a cement area under the trees and the hosts sat in canvas folding chairs around a spread of sandwiches, salads, fruit and desserts. “Those of us who can, pool our money and food so we can share with others,” said Hughes.

Asked what it was like to be homeless, Teresa Fitzpatrick said “I am not homeless and not all of us are. Some of us have jobs, but don’t earn much –– not enough for rent and food,” said Fitzpatrick. “We all have different stories. Some of us are retired and get social security but it’s not enough for everything so we get stuck in this wilderness,” she said.

“We are people who have raised families. We are good people who have fallen on hard times. It happens,” said Fitzpatrick. “The picnic table that used to be here was like a social center where we met to eat, sew, and visit,” said Hughes. She said “we have even held memorial services here for friends who have passed away.”

The New Life Church in Santa Cruz provides some help to these folks. Richard Franconi distributes food to people that has been donated by the New Life Church. He walks around the park and hands out burritos. He said “I have been doing this for 15 years. I used to give about 30 and now it is only about 10.” He gives the food to hungry people even if they are not homeless.

The people at the picnic were all wearing neat, clean clothes. Lise Lafontaine said that she was one of the homeless. She is a licensed hair stylist who cannot find work. “I cut hair for these people for free,” she said as she gestured at the circled of people. “I never thought that I would become homeless because I am a professional haircutter,” said Lafontaine. “Sometimes we get to shower at the Presbyterian Church,” she said. Otherwise, they have no access to water in order to stay clean.

They told their stories and when it was time for lunch, the circle of people bowed their heads while Hughes led the group in a thank you prayer. Lunch was good. It would have been nicer if the picnic table had been there.

The good news is that Alan Galran from Santa Cruz County Department of Parks said that the table will be replaced within two weeks.

Campground

I am truly very sorry that I have not been able to write for this blog since establishing it a few days ago. I really thought that there would be more time before visitors started arriving. I feel badly that there has already been some degree of traffic here, but nothing interesting to read. For now, I will post another article from another blog on May 19. The other blog happens to be a gardening blog, which is why this says more about the trees than about the campsite below them. This is the article below:

There happen to be quite a few campgrounds in the region, with one about a quarter of a mile upstream from where this picture was taken, and another less than three miles past that. Both are primarily used by school age children. The vast redwood forests with creeks flowing through are ideal for such campgrounds.

This is a campground too. I know it does not look like it. It is located between a creek and an industrial building, the eave of which is visible in the top right corner of the picture. The herd of dumpsters that is barely visible at the bottom of the picture might include a dozen dumpsters at at time. (I tried to get both the eave and the dumpsters in one picture.) There really are two rows of barbed wire on top of that fence behind the dumpsters.

Nonetheless, it is a campground. You see, individuals who lack adequate shelter occasionally camp on a flat spot next to the creek, right below the big cottonwood tree in the middle of the picture. It is not a big space, so can only accommodate one or maybe two people at a time. No one has been there for quite a while. Yet, on rainy days like today, it is saddening to imagine someone camping there, so close to inaccessible buildings.

Because the area is outside of landscaped areas, I do nothing to make it any more comfortable as a campground. I only cut away the limbs that fall onto the fence.

The trees are a mix of mostly box elders, with a few cottonwoods and willows, and even fewer alders, with one deteriorating old bigleaf maple. They concern me. Box elders, cottonwoods and willows are innately unstable. All but bigleaf maple are innately structurally deficient. Although bigleaf maple should innately be both stable and structurally sound, the particular specimen in this situation is in the process of rotting and collapsing.

I really do not mind if limbs or entire trees fall into the forested riparian zone. If they fall outward, they do not damage the dumpsters. Only the fence needs to be repaired. What worries me are the potential residents of the campground. Part of my work is to inspect trees for health, stability and structural integrity, and if necessary, prescribe arboricultural procedures to make them safe. I just can not do that here.

UPDATE: Just after this article posted at midnight, a very big box elder off to the right of those in the picture fell with a loud but quick crash. It was probably the biggest and most deteriorated of the box elders in this area, and pulled completely out of the ground to reveal that the roots were so decayed, that none stayed attached to the stump. Seriously, you should see the pictures when they get posted next Sunday.

Felton League

Apologies for not explaining what this blog is about earlier. I did not expect visitors so immediately after posting the first article. It will be several days before I am able to develop the basics of the blog, and write something for the ‘ABOUT’ section. Until then, I will post this article below, which is actually from my gardening blog. It briefly explains what I will be doing here.

When I started posting my weekly gardening articles here, along with a few other odds and ends, I reserved the right to occasionally post articles or information that is not directly related to horticulture. I do not do it often, but I will do it now, in order to briefly explain another blog that I started today.
Felton League
It will feature articles and insight about the distinguished small group of displaced or socially marginalized people and their friends in Felton in California. In other words, it will be about our homeless Community.
In about 2013, at a time when the homeless were more openly persecuted and assaulted, and evenly violently attacked, Felton League began as an informational forum on Facebook. We had been discouraged by the portrayal of the homeless in other so-called ‘community’ groups. Disparaging pictures, often contrived, were shared openly for the amusement of haters. This is common on the pages of our local law enforcement agencies.
Well, that seemed like a good idea. We started sharing pictures of those taking pictures of us, and describing how they stalked us for the sake of taking such pictures. They did not like that, and accused us of stalking, harassment, and all sorts of nonsense. They were also much more careful about how they stalked us.
In fact, the stalking subsided so much shortly after the establishment of Felton League, that the page was almost deleted. Instead, it remained as a Community forum for topics that were of interest to our segment of the Community. It was designed to appeal to less than one percent of the populace, most of whom do not use Facebook, but gained quite a following. There were nearly a hundred followers, but less than a dozen homeless.
That seemed rather odd, especially since a local hate group that specializes in the derision of the homeless, and claiming to represent ‘everyone’ in town, had only about three dozen followers when an associate checked in on them about a month ago. It became obvious that others beyond our Community appreciate the insight.
It is now time to expand Felton League. I hope that this blog makes it more available to a broader audience. I will not post daily. Nor will I discuss certain local events and news that are not directly related to our distinguished small group. As unpleasant as homelessness is, I hope that readers find Felton League to be insightful and perhaps, in some ways, encouraging.
The three men in the pictures above and below are three old friends and members of our Community who have passed away since the establishment of Felton League, and are three of the reasons why I continue to write.