Monday, March 5, 2018

Homelessness

Today we went to hear a wonderful concert by the local choral group Camerata Singers. Their showcase piece was Beatitude Mass (for the Homeless), by Henry Mollicone. Here's a video of a performance from a few years ago.

Before the concert, information was projected on the front wall about a local project called Gathering for Women. The proceeds of the concert were to go to this group, which helps homeless women specifically, and to a Salinas organization, Dorothy's Place, that provides food and a generally safe environment for homeless with their own makeshift shelters. Five hundred people attended the two concerts. I hope many thousands of dollars were raised.

Unfortunately, I did not take notes on the statistics that were displayed on the wall, but the upshot is, there are a couple thousand homeless women on the Monterey Peninsula alone, half of whom are over fifty years of age, mostly living out of their vehicles. And yet they are basically invisible.

A couple of weeks ago, I was following up with Red Cross (I'm a caseworker for the Disaster Action Team, which mostly means house fires) on a 43-year-old non-citizen with two adolescent US-born children. They had lost their home to fire and were bouncing from friend to shelter to I'm not sure where. I made a lot of calls trying to find information, and it was mind-boggling how uncentralized everything was.

What if you really needed help? Shouldn't there be one place you could go?

Every year now from November to May, there is a shelter in Salinas that people without a place to stay can seek out, no questions asked, at 111 W. Alisal. County Supervisor Jane Parker has gained permission for homeless people with vehicles to park outside her office overnight (they used to park along a rural road, but that was getting out of hand). There are moving shelters sponsored by churches, though I am not finding a website that describes this program. There is Monterey Shelter Directory: Helping the Needy of America. There is the Coalition of Homeless Services Providers. There is the Salvation Army. San Benito County apparently has an awesome new shelter, with permanent housing being arranged in 1 of 3 cases—but that doesn't help my client, whose kids are in school in Salinas.

I am on the verge of traveling throughout this county, to the various places I've mentioned here, to the churches, to the homeless shelters, to the food banks, to the thrift stores, to try to find out just what this county actually offers in the way of food and shelter for people in need. Because I sure am not finding that information online. And I don't even need it. But people I represent and care about do. And I'd like to be able to give them some useful information.

You'd think homelessness would be better addressed. It's all around us. And . . . it doesn't need to be. No it doesn't.


1 comment:

  1. Hi! This is a wonderful post. I look forward to your posts about homelessness. I worked at soup kitchens years ago here in civilized Virginia. That was ten years ago and there were so many families living in their cars seeking shelter in winter. Come February, the churches closed their shelters. I was in Houston a couple weeks ago, where I saw a colony of homeless individuals and families under an overpass, tucked away from the mainstream public. Too few of us understand it. Hope to learn more from your point of view of this natio-wide ailment.

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