The Conversation to End Homelessness in Santa Cruz is currently on hold due to the county-wide shelter at home. However, after all the participation in the previous sessions, I expect that we will have an outline at our next session of a plan to end homelessness here. Keep your eye on this space for updates, once the shelter at home is lifted.
Growing up, I had a lot of ideas about what my life would look like as an adult. Thankfully, few of them came true. One thing that I did not imagine, that I was really incapable of imagining, was the depth and richness I would feel every day from my friends and my community.
I did not imagine that I would have friends who shared their victories and their losses, their strengths and their foibles, their tragedies and their triumphs. I did not imagine that I would have friends that I could share all of those things with. I didn’t imagine that I would experience tragedies at all… but tragedy is a part of life, isn’t it?
I did not understand being there for the people I cared about, and allowing them to be there for me. Nor did I understand, as I do now, that I would find those two things to be the best parts of life. Allowing myself to be vulnerable, to be upset, to fail… and then to reach out for help. And to be there for the people I care about to reach out to me. To be there for friends as they figure out and get through the hardest parts of life, and to let people in as I figure out and get through the hardest parts of my life… this I truly treasure.
I treasure doing this with you. I treasure seeing you grow and change, and adapt to the challenges the confront you. I treasure your wins. I treasure sharing in your struggles, and seeing you overcome them. I treasure sharing our lives together – even if most of that sharing, in our modern world, is done online or over the phone.
For all I have faced in life, it has been sharing my struggle that has gotten me through it. It has been doing this thing called life, with all of you, that has made me experience a richness far beyond I have ever imagined. A richness that money can’t buy.
So thank you. I love you. I love you all. I look forward to tomorrow, tomorrow’s tomorrow, and beyond… knowing that we are doing this thing called life together. I’m eager to ride this ride with you.
on the radio, on the interwebs
A more in depth update about life for us during the coronavirus is coming, but in the meantime check out where I’ve been in the press recently:
-Drew Glover had me on KSQD 90.7 to talk about nonviolence and working with people who are homeless. I really appreciated being able to get into the nuts and bolts of how de-escalation works in my conversation with him, and we also covered what we are doing at the shelter and community wide to serve the homeless population during this time. Here is the link if you want to hear it for yourself; at Radio Free America. It aired on April 10th (2020) on the Nonviolent Voices Show at 3pm.
-Jessica York, in her great ongoing coverage of the homelessness crisis in Santa Cruz, mentioned quickly what we are doing at the Free Guide. You can read the article in the Santa Cruz Sentinel, I’m including it here mostly because it’s a great snapshot of where we were in this crisis a couple weeks ago. Honestly, our county as a whole seems to have really stepped up since the coronavirus hit, and it’s inspiring to see.
Even if we don’t have it, it’s taking it’s toll
My county, Santa Cruz, issued it’s stay at home order on March 16th (if I’m counting correctly). So I’m counting sixteen days from that day to today. Santa Cruz county also got over the 50 confirmed cases threshold today. I’m just gonna share the stuff that is on my mind:
-My wife has been working from home, essentially home-schooling our six year old daughter, AND wrangling our near two year old daughter, a puppy, a dog & a cat. Schools & daycares are shut down. My wife works in the schools system in Santa Clara county, their schools are shut down.
-I have continued to manage the homeless shelter that I manage. Which means I’m still going into work 40 hours a week, and interacting with shelter staff and participants.
-There is nowhere near enough time or energy for us to tackle everything we have to do every day.
-A friend brought us groceries and dinner one night a few days ago, and it was honestly manna from the heavens. Every time I’ve seen toilet paper for sale, when the shelves haven’t been empty, it’s been one roll of toilet paper at a time. We’re nearly down to our last roll, if I can’t find a package soon I guess I’ll be buying some rolls…
-It’s been really hard to see and hear about folks who are working from home, or simply at home not working, with no kids and nothing to do. Our world went from 3 full-time jobs (our jobs, and raising the kids while we aren’t at our jobs) to five full-time jobs (add in teaching our kindergartener and “daycare” for a toddler). My wife is taking the brunt of the change, and I’m doing what I can – but it is honestly just too much.
-I spent the last two weeks at the shelter being pulled in multiple directions at once, filling 2-4 roles. I think we have staffing levels at the right spot going forward, but I haven’t recovered yet.
-Before coronavirus, we had bunkbeds in the shelter. In order to create enough “social distancing” (which really should be called “physical distancing”) we’ve moved a portion of folks in the shelter to tents that we have set up in the parking lot. We have gotten much more thorough in our cleaning. Accomplishing this while dealing with the chaos and being short staffed has been rocky, to say the least.
-I’ve been watching the news very closely for mention of people who are homeless getting coronavirus. The only one I’ve heard of was a gentleman in San Jose, CA – who passed away from it. People are very concerned about coronavirus getting into the homeless community. Everyone has been told to practice “social distancing” to slow the spread of this disease. But our culture has been socially distancing from people who are homeless for decades. Social distance is not new for people who are living outdoors. It’s sad to say, but people who are homeless might have a higher risk of getting coronavirus from service providers and landlords than from anyone else. That being said, as soon as there is an encampment somewhere that produces about three coronavirus cases, it’s a totally different picture.
-I saw that there was a record number of unemployment applications sent in recently. Which is not surprising, given that so much is being shut down. But our food supply hasn’t been reduced. Our (already inadequate) housing supply hasn’t been reduced. What if it isn’t actually necessary for our society for those millions of folks to be working? What if we don’t need so many of us working to actually get everyone’s needs met? People who talk about Medicare for All (or single payer healthcare in general) talk about decoupling healthcare from employment. What if we decoupled housing from employment (or income) as well? This is a thought that came to me this week.
-Our whole family is processing through a cold. A definite feature of the coronavirus is the enhanced scrutiny that every sickness receives. We don’t have any reason to think we have it. Even so, I read the reports from Iceland – where it appears they are testing everyone – and it appears half of the people who get positive results have no symptoms whatsoever. It’s terrifying to think that our near two year old could get this, she had a series of medical issues recently and needs to be healthy for another couple of months before she’s out of the woods. Nonetheless, there is no way we would get tested in this country. There are nowhere near enough tests for non-rich people who don’t have any of the primary symptoms.
-Our little mountain town has a nightly howl at 8pm, in honor of the healthcare workers on the front lines of this epidemic. It’s truly heartening to hear and participate it.
-Even though Santa Cruz county just got over 50 confirmed cases, we are currently weathering the storm relatively well. Santa Clara county, directly to the north of us (also know as Silicon Valley, for you international readers – and where I grew up), is up over 950 confirmed cases. The other county to the north of us, San Mateo, is up over 380 cases. I hope our county can keep it’s cases from exponentially increasing, but I’m not sure I would take that bet.
-At the Free Guide, we’ve had to switch to a “live” google doc that can reflect changes we’ve made to available resources for the homeless in Santa Cruz county the second we make them. We’ve had to do this because the list of resources is changing so fast.
-Merlin, the puppy, has been a boon to all of us at home and at work.
-Our oldest daughter cried today when she found out that her school will be closed for the rest of the school year. She misses her friends, and her teacher, so much.
Even though this has been hard, it’s not too hard. We’ll get through this. But all of this is tiring.