Coronavirus: Day 16

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.

A Conversation to End Homelessness, Part 4

For a new year, we’re going to have a new conversation

For a new year, we’re going to have a new conversation. On February 12th, from 6-8pm, at the Downtown Santa Cruz Library we are going to meet to transition the Conversation to End Homelessness group from an open conversation to a work group to direct research, action, and to identify avenues for dialog. From determining the shelter capacity that it would take to make a difference in this county, to identifying possible locations for transitional encampments, to identifying possible funders – there is a wide array of projects that our attendees have pointed out that can be tackled in our community. You are welcome to join us.

Goodbye, Cowboy

I lost another one today…

I lost another one today. This man was in his 60’s, a veteran from the Vietnam era. He was from the south. He went by Cowboy. And oh man, was he a cowboy. He also pushed a wheelchair to get around because he couldn’t walk steadily on his own. When I first met him, he had two black eyes because he had fallen on his face and busted himself up. His beard was a mess. He often stunk. But he always had something witty to say.

He also was a sex offender. I don’t remember what he did to become a sex offender, but I remember looking it up once and it was, well… he deserved to be a sex offender.

But he also did his time. He was never a repeat offender. That didn’t matter, though. Regardless of his clear disabilities and advanced age, he did not qualify for any of the long term programs in this county because of his sex offender status. There was no way for him to earn money, yet he wasn’t allowed entrance into the programs that are there to support people who can’t earn money.

When he was in a good spot, Cowboy was a pure southern charmer. His wit and sense of humor, while sitting on a cardboard box on the sidewalk, always made me laugh. I once got him into a shelter in San Jose for four days. Being under a roof was great for him. When I picked him up after he had to leave (through no fault of his own, but a bureaucratic reason), not only did he look incredible – he had managed to get himself a girlfriend. It was surreal, yet joyous, seeing this man who I literally picked up off the street look 10 years younger and have a tearful goodbye with a lady he would almost assuredly never see again.

Cowboy’s spirit, in the face of bleak circumstances, was formidable. He could find something to joke about in his darkest moments. Yet, honestly, I had come to avoid him on my trips downtown. Not because I didn’t want to see him, but because I wanted so badly to help him and was powerless to do anything. I couldn’t confront the obvious, aching need on his face and my powerlessness to do anything about it.

Cowboy probably died alone. Thankfully he died while the sun was out, so he probably wasn’t cold. I hope, and this is all I can hope, that with his dark sense of humor he was able to find something funny about his last moments.

I bet he did.

Goodbye, Cowboy. You truly brightened my days, and whenever I think of you I will smile.

Ranking Data from Meeting 2

Score Idea
33 Increase Housing Stock, More Homeless Prevention
32 Change Zoning Laws to Higher Density, More Overnight Shelters in the County
31 More Inpatient Beds, UC increase student housing
30 Increase Housing Retention, More Specialized Shelters, Expand Day Center Capacity
29
28 45-50 inpatient beds in each district, Redfine “Affordable Housing”
27 More Transitional Housing, Increase Permanent Supportive Housing, Landlord Outreach about Section 8, Funding Proportionate to Need, More Navigation Staff, Make it less financially risky for landlords
26 Collect data on cost savings of providing services
25 Specialized Client Action Networks, Landlord Outreach about renting to people who have been homeless
24 Make sure tangental services (DMV, Social Security, Medical Services) are accessible for people who are homeless, Flexible Funding, Centralized Access to Services, Equal access to services & support through the entire county
23
22 Pursue Big Corporate Dollars
21 Collect data on past services versus present ones, Give access to services to all individuals, not just the most vulnerable
20 Smaller specialized housing program villages
19
18 Vulnerable folks housed near services, Bust Myths and Stigma around Homelessness
17 Increase Transportation Services Throughout the County, Share Success Stories from People Who Have Ended Their Homelessness
16 Decriminalize Homelessness (ie; ticketing for camping, etc)
15
14 Corporate donations (ie; Uber giving free rides)
13 Technology Education for People Who are Homeless
12 Organized Positive Advocacy, Cater services open hours to the needs of people who are homeless (ie; around the clock services, flex case managers schedules), Moral/Financial/Political Awareness, Humanize People Who Are Homeless
11 Public Education of Homeless Narrative
10
9 Get all ages involved in ending homelessness, Anti-Discrimination Laws for People Experiencing Homelessness

Notes on A Conversation to End Homelessness, Part 2

We had quite a productive second meeting, in which we brainstormed what it would take to end homelessness in Santa Cruz County. It seemed like the best next step would be to rank all of the solutions that were presented. So I have created a Survey Monkey survey to do just that.

Allow 20-30 minutes to fill this out. There are quite a few options, and once I started going through it myself I found that it forced me to make quite a few tough decisions. I found it easier to drag and drop the options than to choose their number from the drop down menu, but play around with it and see what works for you. It is more cumbersome than I would like… But I’m going to run with it for now until we invent something better. I’m hoping that by our next meeting quite a few of you will have taken this survey (or suggested other solutions that we can also consider) and that we will have enough data to group the responses usefully. Here it is: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/FJTVS25

Our next meeting will be on November 7th, at the Veterans Memorial Building in Santa Cruz, from 6-8pm. As always, it will be open to the public. We will be refining all the responses to this survey, putting solutions into categories, and looking at what scope it will take for these solutions to be effective.

The Santa Cruz Sentinel also ran an article about our last meeting, you can read that here.

A Conversation to End Homelessness, Part 2

You heard about Part 1, join us for Part 2! We’ll be looking what it will take to actually end homelessness here. Increase shelter space? Navigation centers? Transitional camps? Change building codes? Fund construction of low income housing?

Everything is on the table. Come ready to share your ideas, and to hear new ideas. We have plenty of experts, what we need are regular citizens of the county to give their views.

If you are currently homeless, there will be secure space to store your belongings at this event.

If you weren’t at Part 1, please check out the notes from our first meeting: bit.ly/endhomelessness1

It’s taking place on September 26th, from 6-8pm at the Veterans Memorial Building (846 Front Street in Santa Cruz). It was moved to this location so we would have more room, as we found we quickly ran out of room at the downtown library.

Here is the facebook event

My Amazing Wife is getting press about taking our kids to Burning Man

Yes, we bring our kids to Burning Man

First, she was interviewed for Road Trippers Magazine.

Next, she made an appearance on our local radio station Wild 94.9‘s morning show. Her spot starts at the 62:24 mark.

Some great photos of us at Burning Man are on her Instagram as well.

❤️