Note from Doni: Please join me in welcoming anewscafe.com reader Lillie Minsart’s essay in which she poses some ideas to possibly help Redding’s homeless issue.
The issue of helping those unsheltered or unsheltered and ill in our community by degree or direction is daunting, yet seems to be the focus of concern for many who have written comments (about the Homeless in Redding series).
What can an individual do to help? Without our families, where could we all be by some unfortunate streak of luck? Ican’t even imagine, but I also realize that I live paycheck to paycheck, like many others in our community. Losing a job and becoming financially strapped or losing my home as a consequence, isn’t exactly unimaginable.
At the same time, I think living your life at will, without responsibilities, communing with nature has a certain appeal, However, not on someone else’s property, and not without hope that it is within one’s power to change. At this point in my life it is getting closer to sounding like ‘retirement’. The problem seems that this segment of the population has ‘retired’without the benefit of preparation, meaning many years of work toward savings, pensions, medical insurance, etc.
So goes the lack of hope and power to change as a choice. They sound stuck.
I, too, can see how “pooling” their MediCal or SSI incomes would help, as mentioned by Shannon in a segment. But they would need someone like Bridgette or Bob to help manage it, or a responsible couple.
There are many empty properties all over Redding, within our RABA bus routes. How wonderful it would be to convert a vacant property with buildings into a“village” or cottage community? Anyone who chose to invest their SSI would receive a dorm-style room with a roommate, community meals (with or without gospel), and an opportunity to work.
Somewhere on the property would be the community garden, chicken coop, goats (for milk), fruit orchard, flower garden, resale/craft/wood shop and possibly a health-care center.
The central kitchen could be a commercial kitchen which could also be used by the community for start-up food ventures. Maybe the SMART Center could sponsor projects there.
Residents would be valued members of the work force it takes to produce meals, clean up, and keep the grounds neat and gardens productive.
Outside of the “village” work or craft sales could translate into points toward earning your private room, amenities, etc. Some residents could volunteer to be kitchen helpers, gardeners, florists or care for animals or work in the resale/craft/wood shop.
Everyone can do something, even in the dorms, someone was responsible for passing out the mail. Skills like learning to knit or crochet hats, scarves and slippers, make quilts, or even sell recycled items one e-Bay can be taught, or give volunteers an opportunity to donate their time.
Some dorm rooms could have attached patios for those who prefer to sleep outside. Everyone “pays” their way to earn the right to stay, slowly graduating to a private room, then possibly an outside job, and a place of their own. What would it take? It is so important in life to feel you make a difference to someone, that your effort is valued, and out of happiness helping others, you can improve your own life.
Many of us moved out of our college dorm rooms with a roommate to an apartment where we shared space, then on to our jobs, apartment, marriages and families of our own. It is even getting tougher for those graduating with a college education these days to make the transition from college to the real world workplace, without assistance.
Unfortunately (but necessary), in our social welfare system, earning money by working only reduces the monthly government allotment, if it isn’t a substantial job. What is the incentive to get a minimum-wage job? It is a disabling system. No need to work translates to no visible value in the society. No self-esteem there, or hope of ever having a chance to move forward in baby steps.
Getting something for doing nothing could be viewed as another kind of addiction: a hard habit to break. Even in raising healthy families, children work to earn allowance, making choices how to spend it, learning responsibility along the way.
We all appreciate more the times we’ve worked hard for something we earned. Do all the homeless receive Medi-Cal and food credits?
If other communities built these “umbrella” types of sheltered living areas, they could share resources or available spaces, offer classes and have access to public transportation or a community vehicle for appointments and work.
I wonder if we built it, would they even come? We can’t force anyone to better their lives. It was heartbreaking to read the accident involving the child of the 25-year-old mother, who with two other children was living in a tent.
Home Start in Roseville provides an apartment atmosphere and opportunities for women with children to move forward in life. Some community projects are working.
I think you’ve opened up the wound and started a conversation with your articles.Maybe we will look at the unsheltered differently, recognizing the scope of the problem. What are other communities doing to make a difference? There are many people and organizations who are already helping, and many others who want to do something. Maybe we will hear more about those efforts at the end of the series. I am hopeful!
George Washington Carver, a particular hero of mine, said, “How far you go in life depends on you being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in life you will have been all of these.”
Readers who wish to submit essays for consideration on anewscafe.com may email them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please keep essays 700 words or less, and include the writer’s name, short bio, city and photo.
Lillie Minsart has been an educator for more than 34 years, most recently she as the co-founder and teacher at North Woods Discovery Charter School. She says that as a thinker and a dreamer, she recognize that “wishing is not good enough” when we can also do something to help.