Monday, March 26, 2018

NATION: Permanent Subsistence Housing (PSH) - A New Way of Thinking About Housing Those in Need

After years of talking to elected officials, committees, and regular old citizens like me, many still do not get it. We talk about "low income housing", "workforce housing", "affordable housing" — even "low low low income housing" (yes, that's a "thing"!) - what we don't talk about is a way to immediately begin getting the thousands (yes, thousands) of homeless in SLO county out of the creek beds and bushes, and into something resembling housing that meets basic needs.
I want to express the dire need to get the homeless off the street by describing a new kind of housing that maybe our elected local officials can understand - I call it "Permanent Subsistence Housing" (PSH). I'll try to describe it here as simply as I can. Let's begin.

PERMANENT SUBSISTENCE HOUSING (PSH). We define it by what it REQUIRES. The requirements below do not have to be in place all at once. They can be added ONE AT A TIME, IN RANDOM ORDER, IF NECESSARY. A plan is required, however, to eventually get to supplying all human subsistence requirements as listed below.

R1. Private bathroom with shower and all necessary associated items, like towels, soap, hot water, toilet, shower, etc.

R2. Safe, private sleeping space, with all associated items, such as bedding, pillow, etc.

R3. Lockable, private storage space which keeps private possessions safe while person is away from PSH.

R4. Food storage and preparation space, with all associated items, such as rodent-proof food storage, cooking space, pots, pans, plates, etc.

R5. Secure trash storage and regular pick up service.

R6. Right to the PSH. The right to be at one particular PSH, or moved to another PSH. This is trickier. Once moved into a PSH, the person cannot be kicked out of a PSH except for some very stringent criteria for dismissal. Note that the PSH may be moved from place to place, but it must be within a reasonable distance of the geographic location where the person has roots.

R7. Common area of PSH, where all PSH residents can congregate, with routine quiet hours in that space.

R8. All spaces at PSH require "probably cause" that a crime has been committed before law enforcement can enter these spaces, just like a private residence.

R9. All residents much contribute in some way to the common good of the PSH, based on their abilities (yes, communism it is!).

R10. Everything at the PSH is done according to the law, but when the law does not permit people to exist, the law must be changed. In the interim, emergency decrees shall be declared to permit people to exist, even if it doesn't comply with current law (think "emergency situation", like a disaster of some sort, where many people are displaced from their homes, and must have somewhere to go - the government has no restrictions in these situations).

We also define what is OPTIONAL but highly desired.

O1. Coping services, such as counseling, mental health services, job training, etc. As long as the person meets the behavioral rules of R6, these "Coping Services" are optional.

O2. Community work space, such as communal work activities, communal gardens for raising food items, etc.

O3. No PSH resident can own a car. Instead, the facility should have electric bicycles and tri-cycles, and be near a local transportation hub, such as a bus stop.

A campground could meet all these requirements. 
A tent city at a public park, with access to ports-potties and a paid membership at a health club for showering, and with a cook tent and social center tent (like Mt. Everest base camp) could meet all these requirements. 
So could a co-operative housing facility, like the Co-op in Westwood where I once worked and lived 
So could college style dorms.
And tiny home villages.

It doesn't look like "Affordable Housing" priced at $350,000 - $650,000. 
It doesn't look like a development, where 12% of the units (or pick your percentage - 2%, 5%, 55% - it doesn't matter) are for "affordable housing". 
It doesn't expect people to be something they are not, and may never be. In the short term, some people just aren't going to turn into something that society wants them to be - though they should be given the opportunity to do so. 
Its not a homeless shelter (or a "Temporary Emergency Housing", as I like to call it - those are for people who become homeless when they didn't expect to, like losing your job and getting evicted, hiding from spousal abuse, or becoming disabled because of an accident and trying to live off disability payments.
It doesn't appeal to middle class, upper middle class or high income earners - they won't want to live here - they already have a place to live; the "affluent" won't move in, scoop up PSH housing, and move in, or treat it as a "vacation home" - PSH exists purely to house people with nowhere else to go in a way that is more humane that what we are doing today, which is not much (statistically).
PSH does not require food to be provided - the community will provide food for themselves by whatever means necessary.

I kept this as simple as possible. Maybe more people will "get it". We have to ask ourselves - "are we our brothers keeper?" - I think we are. Peace.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

CALIFORNIA: A Life Lived "Under the Bell"

La Purisima Mission Bells - 200 Year Anniversary
By Tim Waag

This article was written for Mission La Purisima Concepcion de Maria Santisima, in celebrating of the 200th year of their "Manuel Vargas" mission bell, cast in Peru in 1818. There is a special display in the Mission's visitors center commemorating this anniversary.
Many things about California’s mission life are taken for granted - like the timeless sounding of the mission bells. Digging deeper, there is always a greater depth of knowledge and understanding to be had. La Purisima Mission State Park is proudly celebrating the 200th anniversary of it’s 1818 Manuel Vargas-cast bell from Peru. Let’s probe a little further into the historic mission bells.

The bell-maker’s name and date were often cast into the bell, and sometimes even the mission’s name. The La Purisima bronze bell is inscribed with “Manuel Vargas Me Fecit, Año 1818, Misíon de la Purísima de la Nueva California” (translation of inscription: “Manuel Vargas made me, year 1818, Mission La Purisima of New California”). The Vargas bell was found at Mission Santa Inés in the 1930s, and returned to Mission La Purísima. Interestingly, at neighboring mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa, their “Joy Bell” and “Gloria Bell” have the same inscription (including the same year 1818) — just swap “Misíon San Luis Obispo” for “Misíon de la Purísima”.
Above: Mission La Purisima Concepcion, where I am a volunteer docent, and play a Franciscan Priest during "Mission Life Days".

We know that the first mission bells in California were transfers from Spanish missions in Baja California, beginning in 1769. They were brought here by Fr. Junipero Serra O. F. M. (religious founder of the first California missions) and Gaspar de Portola, recently appointed Governor of the Californias. We also know that conversion of the indigenous peoples of California to Catholic belief and lifestyle was enhanced by the mythic powers of seemingly magical items unfamiliar to them. Playing a primary role were the metal mission bells with their glorious clanging that could be heard from miles away.

Resources were scarce at the new “Alta California” missions, and often, wooden bells were hung in the belfries (or companarios) until a metal bell could be procurred. Often, the wooden “placeholder” bell was all there ever was in a given slot in the bell tower. The padres at the various missions had limited budgets to procur religious objects, and had to make judicious trade-offs between acquiring religious art, vestments, beads, tools, livestock and other items.
Mission San Luis Obispo - bell tower (companario)

Each California mission had two Franciscans assigned to them, and with the advice and counsel of the Alta California Mission Presidente, decisions were made about how many bells and other items (religious and otherwise) were to be acquired. Large mission bells were heavy and expensive, and prone to cracking and damage over time, so the trade-offs in deciding where to spend their mission budget was a difficult one.

Much information has survived from the mission era, but the internal discussions and trade-offs by the padres related to their mission and their bells seldom survived to the present day. We do know how important the missions bells were to the lives of the Franciscans, as they often described their life as “living completely under the bells”. Today, we are left with speculation and intuition as to the story of each of California’s mission’s bells. 

Thursday, January 18, 2018

How to House the Homeless and Low Income Worker

The bottom line is that when it comes to the homeless, I am at my best, by far, as a "hands on" volunteer. Not a politician, or a policy wonk, or anything like that. However, I read about solutions to homelessness and how to provide low cost housing for low income workers in large volumes.

This page is dedicated to links to California projects to achieve these objectives that have (or are) being implemented, and could be undertaken with success here on the Central Coast, should there be the political will to do so.

Are they "perfect" solutions? No. Do "perfect" solutions exist? No. So what are these? Solutions that are working, and create housing for the homeless, and affordable housing for the low wage worker. Happy reading.

When the links may "disappear" over time, I have copied the article (in part) so that you will have some idea of its contents. Happy reading!

2018.01: Trailers for the Homeless in Downtown Los Angeles Lot
Los Angeles city leaders are planning to house dozens of homeless people in trailers on a city-owned downtown lot as a possible model for citywide temporary shelters.

Above: Large dog guarding a homeless camp in San Luis Obispo.

Monday, October 2, 2017

SAN LUIS OBISPO: How Can We Be So Cruel?


SAN LUIS OBISPO: I know this 74 year old homeless woman from volunteering at the homeless shelter. I recently saw her on the street, where I stopped to talk to her. She told me she had recently gotten kicked out of the Maxine Lewis Memorial (homeless) shelter in SLO. She didn't know why they kicked her out.
Above: 74 year old mentally ill women put out on the street. Sleeps in Train Station upright in a chair for 3 nights in a row. Falls asleep one night, and falls on her face, badly cutting her nose. Yes, we all threw her out on the street. Shame.
I dropped everything so I could help her. I brought her to my house, and I spent a few hours calling all the shelters I knew of in SLO county - they were all full, or said they would not take her. (Shame on these shelters for turning her away too - certainly, exceptions can be made for a kind elderly woman living on the street? Yes, I know, I'm naive — but at least I'm not heartless).
The previous few nights away from the shelter, she spent the night in the SLO bus or railroad station (she wasn't clear which one). She stayed at the station because it is too dangerous for her to stay in the unregulated homeless camps in SLO (I agreed with that decision).
While sleeping in a chair at the station, she fell forward and hit her nose on the floor, which is where she got that cut on her face the day before (see PHOTO).
After many hours and many phone calls, she was able to get back into the CAPSLO shelter that night. IMHO, its NEVER right to kick a 74 year old woman out of a homeless shelter, except in the most extreme situations. I was able to find out why she was not able to continue to stay at the shelter; IMO, the reason they gave was not justifiable.
WE MUST DO BETTER PEOPLE. I've known this woman for years - she is sweet and kind and never a bother to anyone. To kick her out onto the street is plain disgraceful. 
We must demand more and better from ourselves, our leaders, and our society.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

SAN LUIS OBISPO: Showers of Hope at UCC 9/9/2017

Saturday 9/9/2017 Showers of Hope Report: We operated our Hope's Village of SLO - Showers of Hope - Mobile Shower Trailer at United Church of Christ parking lot at 11245 Los Osos Valley Road in SLO. We had another relatively low turnout, but right now, its quality, not quantity. We have provided a high degree of services, allowing folks to get clean and walk away with food and wearing clean clothes. Thanks to our crew: Carley, David, Marcy, Becky and Barbara.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Just for Fun! Chicago

Went to see Chicago at Vina Robles in Paso last night. Yes, they were that good. No, I have no excuse for not going to see them sooner. They were one of my favorite bands in High School during the 1970's. Sadly, I'll be missing my 40th high school reunion on 9/16 because Sue is having back surgery on 9/15. Oh well, that's life.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

EDITORIAL: The Destruction of American History...Are there any Lines Left to Draw?

UPDATE 9/14/2017: The "Destroy American History" movement continues unabated. As I originally predicted in this article, it would not be long before the venerated Fr. Junipero Serra of Alta California colonial history would be the next to be destroyed. See the section in this article below titled "Spanish Colonial Era Worship Must End".  For more information on Mission San Luis Obispo, reference this article. On La Purisima Concepcion, reference this article. 

On September 12, 2017, the familiar statue of Saint Serra which appears at most of the 21 California missions has been decapitated and defaced with red paint, and sadly covered over with a black burka sack. You can read about the article in the SLO Tribune by clicking here. Most historical statues scattered around America have gone largely unnoticed by the public, until this criminal movement to destroy them got started. I hope that others love history as I do, whether deemed "good" or "bad", and want images of our past preserved. Otherwise, how are we different from the Taliban and ISIS, who destroyed ancient and amazing works of historical art during their brutal occupations, never to be seen again by the world? Those in the "destruction" business would not appear to have a moral compass to consult. Sad indeed.
Above: Putting in a new adobe floor at La Purisima in the "Master Weavers Quarters". What an honor for me to touch California history.