Tag Archives: homelessness

Conversations

It was after 7 this morning before I rolled out of bed. Very unusual for me. The night had been spent with wild and crazy dreams which may have made me more tired than rested. I awoke thinking about the dreams and wondering where some of the material for them came from. Then I remembered. I had a number of serious conversations the last few days with a variety of people. My mind had jumbled all those conversations into a long stream of dreams.

I was out early Monday morning, running errands. I like to start early, right after 8:30 and be home by 11. During the drive between stops a friend left a message on my phone letting me know she was hospitalized. When I arrived at my next stop I called her and we talked for about a half hour. She is hospitalized, having gone for heart tests on Friday that in turn required her heart to be restarted TWICE. She faces open-heart surgery today. She also faces a long recuperation and rehabilitation period. It makes me sad as she is the same age as my husband. She has smoked and eaten badly all of her adult life. The heart surgeon told her that almost every patient he operates on has been a smoker.

After finishing my errands and coming home I found a message on the home answering machine from my sister who I had not heard from in months. We live in the same town but rarely see one another. She celebrated her 82nd birthday last week, and I had sent her a card with a photograph of Terry and me. My sister does not have a computer so there is no way of keeping her apprised of what we do except by phone/snail mail. After the birthday celebrations with her grandchildren and visits from her great grandchildren, she had time to sit and talk for awhile.

A couple in our church celebrated their 61st wedding anniversary on Sunday. I chatted with them about their achievement and how so many did not reach that number. We also talked about how so many of the younger people are not even getting married any more, taking their chances with the legal quandaries that can come about without the legal documentation. I’ve seen that with children at school whose parents never married, especially if the birth father’s name is not on their birth certificate. It can cause havoc with their life should something happen to one of the parents.

My sister got married shortly after I was born, and had she and her first husband remained married, they would be celebrating their 65th anniversary later this year. I brought this up while chatting with her on the phone, telling her about the couple who has been married 61 years. She marveled at that and said she admired those who could make it in a marriage, long-term. Her first husband is still alive but doing very poorly, health-wise. Her second husband, who was abusive, has been out of the picture for a long time and we never even mention his name, but the knowledge of his one-time existence in her life, and the reason for her diminished lifestyle, is still there, nonetheless. It was a bad decision to marry him and get his name legally attached to hers. I tried to dissuade her, but you know, people in love never see what others see. Perhaps it is better to just live together.

And the final conversation jangling around in my head is that of homeless people, especially the elderly and those with mental issues. I was discussing the importance of having a network, a support system, when one gets older. What happens to those without family or friends who develop dementia and can no longer care for themselves, but no one is around to witness the progression and get help for the person? The other two people in the conversation were telling me the difficulty of getting conservatorship and getting help for those in that situation.

On top of the conversations, also bouncing around in my head are plans for coffee fellowship after church next Sunday. I am in charge of the refreshments and  I have a Valentine’s theme in mind. That’s what part of my errand-running was about, getting supplies. Those plans got dumped in with the various conversations and made my dreams hectic and chaotic. I’m staying home today as the weather forecast calls for another rain storm. At least it’s warm–60 degrees this morning.

Continuing to work for the good of the city

When it came time to do my student teaching, the supervisor from the university suggested a high school in the neighboring town in a district known for its well behaved, high scoring, white students. I rejected his suggestion and requested the school on the opposite side of our town where the kids are poor, less well behaved, and minority. Although I got what I wanted, it made my supervisor very uncomfortable. He visited my classrooms twice and then told me he wouldn’t be returning as the students were very badly behaved. They weren’t. As I continued in the teaching profession, years later I would see students who made those first ones look like scholarly angels. I kept wishing that university supervisor could see what I was doing now.

My passion has always been for the less fortunate, the ones with fewer opportunities, the ones who live where many refuse to go. I want to change the world for everyone and that’s why I wanted that school across town for my student teaching assignment. When I recently wrote about a conference I had attended, City Summit 2013, DJan asked how I would be using the information I had gleaned from the workshops. The same way I have been using the information I have gathered for the past twenty five years, to build on my experience and my ability to help others. I want as much knowledge as I can get to use in all that I choose to do.

books

I have read many books over the years, attended many conferences, presented to many groups, taught in an inner city school, lead in an inner city church, cooked for a women’s shelter, raised awareness for a number of local organizations that help the poor, the downtrodden, the less affluent, all the time wanting to learn more about how to do a better job in making a difference. Terry and I have also volunteered in San Francisco, at Glide Memorial, Year Up, Emerge, and Rebuilding Together San Francisco. While living in San Francisco, the homeless were camping right below our apartment and so I packed meals and distributed them as I walked the streets.

My goal, upon retiring from the inner city high school, was to work for a nonprofit in San Francisco, helping those in need. I applied to every organization that had a job listing where my skills could be used. I got one interview out of the whole lot and was told I would be bored. Finally, I gave up, left San Francisco, and returned to volunteer in Fresno where the unemployment rates are high, the poverty rates even higher, and the needs are overwhelming. But, our home is paid for, unlike in San Francisco where the rent on our tiny studio apartment was $2400 a month, so I don’t need a salary. There are many agencies to whom I can give my time and skills.

This is a bit of advice I follow: Do not lose heart,; do not become faint. When you seek to perform a good work that God asks of you, you will always find an ample supply of God’s grace to sustain you.

January 13–the empty triangle is a symbol of answered prayer

For those dear Readers who have been with me for awhile, you know that I have written extensively on the homeless in San Francisco. Much of my musings have centered around the triangle, that I can watch from my perch, where the homeless were camping for much of this past year.

Here is what the triangle looked like in July, 2010:

There were about 10 encampments.

This is how the triangle looks in January, 2011:

The bird lady still comes to feed the pigeons.

It has been a cold winter in San Francisco and I see few homeless as I travel the sidewalks. The city seems to have done a better job of finding them places to stay or sending them back to where they started.

When we arrived in the tiny apartment, the homeless situation right below my window broke my heart. I prayed every day that God would help the homeless find a place and they would not have to live on the street. After a year, I feel my prayer has been answered. Is my job here done?

What do we do about the homeless?

For those dear Readers who have been with me for awhile, you know about my posts on the triangle as seen from our tiny apartment’s window. This small plot of concrete, just steps from the Embarcadero and GAP Headquarters, a block from the Ferry Building, and on the path to AT&T Park, had become a camp for homeless people.  Although the majority of the residents came at dusk to spend the night, a few were there all day.

Something has happened in the past couple of weeks. Not only are the day time residents gone, but now there are only two night-time regulars. Did the Port Authority, who owns the triangle, move the homeless along? Did the city find a place for them? What do we do about the homeless?

Today’s Fresno Bee has a news piece about a homeless camp near Highway 99 and the railroad tracks, Black Rascal Creek. The city of Merced wants to clear this camp by October, yet where do they find alternative housing for people with mental and emotional issues? When those with stable lives cannot find jobs, how does one find a job for a person with no address, no clothes, no transportation and no means of getting these things that the rest of us take for granted?

For the past nine months I have sat at the window, looking down on the triangle, and pondering these questions. I’ve always been a proactive person. How do we keep people from being homeless in the first place?