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.

Refugees

Ukraine is a topic that I have been avoiding. Friends and colleagues talk and write about it, but likewise seem to be hesitant to get too involved with such discourse. It is a difficult topic, from every perspective. Every topic within the primary topic is unpleasant. Politics are so vague. War is so violent. The potential for escalation is so terrifying. So many people are displaced.

Ukrainian refugees have been fleeing into and through Europe since the beginning of this war. Some have been coming to America. A colleague in Los Angeles has already assisted with temporary settlement of a few refugees who left Ukraine as the current situation began. Some came to Los Angeles intentionally, but not all. Some refugees could possibly relocate locally.

It is gratifying to know that the vast majority of people here will be graciously supportive of refugees if necessary. That is how healthy Society operates. Those of us who lost homes to the CZU Fire are very aware of this.

Furthermore, those who lack domestic situations for any other reason besides the CZU Fire are likewise aware of the gracious generosity of our local Community. It is why so few of us presently remain unhoused here, even while homelessness is such a major problem elsewhere in America.

A refugee is someone who is in need of refuge, likely after deprivation of former habitation. Prior to the current situation in Ukraine, refugees came from a variety of regions, and for a variety of reasons. Many refugees are local.

It is impossible to predict how many from Ukraine will relocated permanently to America, and how many will eventually return to Ukraine. The future or Ukraine remains unknown. We do know that Society here and elsewhere will do what it must to accommodate, and help if necessary.

Autumn 2021

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.

New In Town

The significantly declining rate of houselessness here during the past several years has been gratifying to say the least. Somehow, while houselessness has been increasing so substantially in so many other Communities, most who previously lacked a stable home here have procured domestic situations. It is so gratifyingly contrary to the external trend. 

The situation is certainly not perfect though. A few remain houseless because of inability to function within domestic or professional situations, or to exploit very limited resources that should be available to those in such condition. Sadly, some are the most vulnerable of society. Others have potential to inadvertently cause problems for other within society.

Furthermore, although uncommon, a few transient houseless people continue to migrate through our Community. Some have reason to be here. Others are here only incidentally. Most seem to be respectful of society; but it is impossible to know for certain. Even those with good intentions are unfamiliar with the cultural expectations of the local Community. 

While a few more of the local Community were houseless, this minor houseless transient Community was afforded significantly more opportunity for ‘local’ Community interaction. Ironically, this distinctly local interaction is limited by the declining rate of houselessness. Fewer of the few who remain unhoused locally are qualified to represent our Community. 

Some of the transient houseless people relocate to another Community before becoming acquainted with our Community and the associated resources that are available to them here. Those who stay longer eventually become somewhat familiar with our Community, but perhaps less efficiently than they otherwise would, with more Community interaction. 

Community outreach by those who have not been houseless is effective but impractical. Obviously, they have homes, domestic lifestyles, and, most likely, employment to devote their time to. Also, they likely lack adequate familiarity with houseless culture.

Rainy Season

Steven Michael Ralls Memorial Tree appreciates rain.

December 13 is the birthday of our dearly departed friend Steven Ralls. His ‘Steven Michael Ralls Memorial Tree‘ that was planted on May 2, for the third anniversary of his passing, is doing well, and likely appreciates what transpired overnight. Now that it got the opportunity to disperse roots through its first season in the ground, it will receive no more supplemental irrigation.

Such irrigation will no longer be necessary. The tree is a native Monterey cypress, which survives on annual rainfall, within a locally limited season. It was only occasionally irrigated through its first season, while it was busy dispersing roots. It should do well without any such intervention next year. Now that the rainy season started, the soil will not get dry until late next spring.

Yes, it is now the beginning of the rainy season here. The second small storm passed through early this morning and continues as I write this. The first arrived on Friday night. A minor prior storm was something of a lone stray, and did little to disrupt the naturally dry weather pattern that had persisted since late last spring. Now, more rain is expected for Wednesday afternoon.

For most of us with roofs, rain will be an asset. It sustains the forests and replenishes the aquifers. This year, it will rinse away the ashy dust deposited by the CZU Lightning Complex Fires. For those without roofs, rain, although appreciated, can cause significant problems. Prior to the CZU Lightning Complex Fires, very few homeless people resided here. It is not as simple now.

Sadly, many local residents lost their homes to the CZU Lightning Complex Fires. Although most are now residing in homes, even if just temporarily, some are not. Many are still cleaning up the mess where their homes had been. Rain will obviously complicate such unpleasant tasks. Furthermore, debris flows, which become more likely as rain continues, are now a major concern.

The end of the fire season at the beginning of the rainy season is no consolation for those who already lost their homes to fire.

Minimal Turnout

The recycled article below is more than a year old, from a time when groups could gather. It may not seem to be relevant while there are no social events, but it will eventually become relevant again. It will be interesting to see how minimal the turnout for some of our familiar social gatherings will be. It was already very minimal prior to the current situation. So many who had formerly lacked a domestic situation or employment have become too busy with new domestic and professional obligations to attend.

(I am sorry that I am presently unable to write new articles as I had been. I do not know when I will resume. As I mentioned, the article below is recycled from more than a year ago.)

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?

Campground

Other obligations prevent me from writing something new for this week. I may not be able to write anything new for quite a while. Instead, this old article that was re-posted from my other blog in May of 2018 will be posted again. (I am getting significant mileage out of this article.) 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.

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?

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.