Posts Tagged With: pets

INDIGNITIES OF BEING HOMELESS.

IMG_0227Among the homeless, Norman is luckier than most. Here we are, his siblings who made him welcome for a week after Christmas for several years.  Left to right, Norman, my sister who died at age 80, Will and Clark, who both live near me. After Dawn died, Norman has declined  visits over the holidays. Growing up, she was more like a mother to him. He’d say, “Why not me?” He said the same when Brother Mark, died at age 45 and Brother Dan died at age 59. “Why not me?”

Worse than feeling worthless, Norman got involved with a Baptist church where he and the pastor developed a friendship. The whole congregation befriended Norman. He was accepted; he had friends. He attended services regularly.

The church had movie nights in their hall with free popcorn. He was happy. Norman suggested Fiddler On The Roof? No one had seen it. Feeling some reluctance from the members, he drummed up support for it. Then offered to pay for the movie from his own funds. He knew they’d love this movie. A scant number of non-parishioners attended. He couldn’t understand it? I said maybe because  Fiddler On The roof is about Jewish families. “So what? Jesus was a Jew. That can’t be it.”

He survived that fiasco and sometime later when talking with the Pastor, he mentioned a passage in his bible that he thought could be interpreted that God might be a woman. The Pastor was visibly upset and told him that was heresy. He wanted the Pastor to read it and talk about it. He would not. From then on, the congregation ostracized Norman. No one would look at him, or speak to him. Deeply hurt, he left with bitter tears in his voice. I didn’t hear from him for months. I say, Oh yea good Christians, how shallow thou art.

It saddens me, that Norman didn’t get treatment for alcohol addiction when he first stepped into the arrest and re-arrest cycle. Right now, Norman is doing well. But, looking at the numbers of homeless, most are not.

Cleveland, Ohio, learned several years ago, that providing housing was cheaper (though not by much), than emergency room medical treatment and the revolving doors of the courts and jail. Low cost housing makes a huge difference in the community and its sense of humanity.

Doing nothing complicates the consequences of angry, helpless, hopeless people, left to fend for themselves in a jungle atmosphere. The strong pick on the weak. Addiction increases. Hunger is constant as is dirt and filth. When you see homeless encampments, they are always loaded with dirty bedding. There is no garbage service, so garbage is everywhere. Vermin follow.  People have to answer natures call, whether there is a toilet or not.

Communities want them out of their site. In  Tuolumne County, one Supervisor suggested that the churches should quit feeding them because they hang around town and businesses don’t want them on the sidewalks.  Passing ordinances doesn’t make them invisible, less hungry or less likely to steal food.

Low cost housing works. People need stability. Children require healthy meals and decent clothing with regular attendance in school. Some parents, single or dual, will find work enough to move on. It is a chance for a better life.

Living on the streets can drive you crazy. Having a pet can help. It is healing to have responsibility for someone or something other than one’s self.  Cleveland recognized that and allows residents to keep a pet.

Not every community will find enough money for housing.  What I learned from the Butte Fire is that  gated parks with mobile washers, dryers, toilets, showers and storage lockers can make a big impact on the homeless.  The long-term homeless have different needs than fire victims, of course. And they may prefer to sleep in individual tents, or cots on the grass, or out in the open. Most shelters are plagued with smelly bedding and bed bugs, in a closed space where someone else’s snoring or farting keeps you awake. The park should have a covered picnic area with tables and benches.  A barbecue area with electricity for people to cook their food with nearby garbage cans and a wash up area.

Separating and treating drug addicts and drunks and getting the mentally ill treatment is necessary. Money for facilities for the mentally impaired is money well spent. It may be as simple as providing medication for bi-polar people. Isn’t it a civil responsibility to assist those who cannot help themselves no matter what caused their dilemma?  As citizens, don’t we have the right to demand solutions that work even if it is mandatory treatment.

For long-term homeless, the park must have a guard and rules. The gate guard allows those inside who have agreed to be responsible for the privilege of using the park.  A safe haven for good behavior. But, who wants to be in a park where a drunken or drugged up person wants in when his behavior hasn’t been so good? He creates a fuss and keeps everyone else awake and the dogs bark.

Is he turned away?  No. Cooperation with the police provides him a quick trip to the drunk tank to sober up or come down from his high.  From there a hearing  before a civil magistrate must be endured before a person can get a trial or his legal day in court. It requires a change in the law or perhaps, just procedure.  A sentence to treatment means he gets his place in the safe haven secured and his belongings and a pet, if he has one, cared for.  Communication between law enforcement and the city or county run park is paramount.

AA meetings and medical treatment for addiction is first, under lock down in a dormitory style building.  Sentences are long enough to give the person counseling along with treatment.  Staff tries to find him a job on the outside while he is under treatment.  The job is probationary. From the job, he returns to lock down until he is considered stable enough to turn his life around. If he fails, he has three chances to make it work.

Every human being is entitled to be treated as well as animals. As my brother indicated in his letter,  “the son of man has no place to lay his head.”  That has to change.

 

 

 

 

 

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THE HOMELESS-DIGNITY, SELF-WORTH.

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Continuing the saga of my homeless brother Norman, here he is with his little dog and his bike. He lost the dog the last time he was arrested.  He had taken over a condemned house. With a house address, he was able to get a bank account and begin collecting his social security which amounted to about $1,200 a month. He dug a new sewer line, fixed leaks on the roof, put in new flooring, a toilet and new plumbing. Over time,  he put in a washer and dryer and television set. He made friends with the neighbors.  He lived in this place for three years and invited a couple other homeless guys to live there too.  Then, he decided to plant a garden with veggies and marijuana. A neighbor reported on him and the police came to “his house”, knocked on the door, arrested him for growing marijuana. (The other two guys vacated the minute the cops came to the door.)The cops would not let him secure the house nor make arrangements for his dog.  Directly to jail.

In court, Norman could make a deal with the D.A. but he refuses. “If you do, they own you. They can just pick you up at any time and slap you back in jail for looking cross-eyed at someone.  Probation for me is useless. I can’t get anywhere on time. I don’t have a watch or a calendar. I often don’t know the time of day or what day it is.”

While in jail, another brother picked up his mail and deposited his checks and paid for his storage building.  Without family help, he would have had to reapply for Social Security all over again, and wait for it to clear, from 6 weeks to  3 months.  When Norman returned to “his house”, the place had been stripped of everything he owned. His dog, gone.

He made his way back to a homeless camping area under the freeway in San Leandro. Someone told him  about a mobile home park in Hayward with vacancies.  It was a run-down place. He walked up to apply. The woman took one look at him and turned the sign around and said she had no vacancies. He was scruffy and dirty again, by this time.

Norman is personable. People like him.  He makes it a point to befriend the storekeepers he must depend on so they know he doesn’t steal. He manages to fend off depression through his Bible and his faith.

Desperation is the most common ailment of the homeless. It sucks away any sense of well-being, hope or strength. It is naive to think that homeless people, single men especially, who can’t afford housing and basic necessities, should somehow be kind and sweet. Homeless people can be scary, full of tattoos, drunk and offensive, druggies, often panhandling aggressively. They don’t want to be dirty and stinky and loathed by all who see them. So called normal people with homes and traditional lives suffer from depression, drink too much, beat their wives, and kick the dog.  They can live their messy lives behind a locked door. But the homeless are treated like trash and we expect them not to be depressed, hungry, angry, criminal and ill?

It kind of reminds me of the old debtors prisons. You go prison for stealing a loaf of bread because you are hungry. You can’t get out until someone pays your way out, but you have no money to make that happen. Are we that medieval?  The way some cities treat the homeless, the answer is yes.

Everything has changed again for Norman. He is in a burnt out house that he is slowly fixing for the owner using his carpentry skills. He is not paid. With housing, he is stable, relatively sober and upbeat. The owner buys materials and arrives with his tools, one or two days a month. The owner takes the tools with him so no one can steal them while he is gone. (Not exactly the best neighborhood.)

At this new place, he has something to love-a stray cat;  He has a place safe from young street punks who steal his bike and shove him around, just because they can. Here guys on the street have offered him friendship and marijuana. He doesn’t trust them and so far has refused any involvement with them. It is easier to do when you have a locked door.

The owner, (to remain unnamed), is a guy Norman built a house for about 10 years ago when he was homeless but still working for food and booze.  It was before he had his stroke and before he could collect his social security. This man allows Norman to use his address for his mail when he is living on the street.

Norman has a throw away phone for which he buys minutes so he can communicate with me. He has a know it all attitude about some subjects and can be irritating at times.  I listen as patiently as I can.

Currently, his Social Security has been  reduced to $780 a month.  Social Security is on auto deposit now, and they promptly deducted Obama Care from his check.  He has no way to get to a hospital, or establish a relationship with a doctor. He recently had a toothache and was in considerable pain. But, he couldn’t get to a dentist either. His income and ability to find a place to live is further from reach then ever, when this house is finished.

His bills are few without rent. He has to pay his storage fee. When on the street he has electricity in his unit and he can cook in a crock pot and sit in a chair and write his letters. He has a place to keep his papers safe and dry.  But, no shower, nor place to sleep.  Still, it is a refuge of sorts that the manager of the storage building allows because he likes Norman.

Meanwhile, in this house, he can shower and keep himself clean.  He is stable and has a sense of purpose. He writes letters to public figures like Elizabeth Warren, President Obama, Governor Christie. He writes long letters to major newspapers and sends me copies of them.  He is a bit mentally impaired in that he thinks he is part of the political scene and is influencing others for a better America with his letters.

I feel he needs to know that he has some self-worth; that his opinion is worth something to someone. That someone cares about whether he lives or dies.  Isn’t that what we all need?  A sense of self-worth with some dignity?

In one of his letters to the editor, he wrote:  “A fox has his den, a bird has her nest, but the son of man has no place to lay his head.”

So, what is the answer? More tomorrow.

 

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WILDLIFE AT RISK.

1510_Enews_files_Images_story2Americans love their pets. They are intrinsically kind to animals. Some declare, they’d rather have pets than children. We are tied to, we are enriched by, and we need the wildlife that lives with us and around us everywhere. In the U.S. extinctions are on the rise, even of major species like the leopard, the wolverine, panthers, fresh water mammals like the manatees, bull sharks. Sea corals whales, manta rays, and thousands of life forms, butterflies, bees, and birds are under threat.  Wildlife around the world is under siege.

Tigers in Sumatra have been declared extinct. This month, 300 elephants were poisoned for their ivory. The rhinoceros are so close to extinction, it is only a matter of time.

Up to 35,000 elephants are being poached yearly, and lions and other iconic species are also fighting for survival — and they’re running out of time. That’s why I’m promoting the Global Anti-Poaching Act, a critical bill to help stave off the poaching of  Africa’s wildlife. The bipartisan legislation — which aims to enable the U.S. government to work with partner countries in countering international criminal syndicates, rebel groups and terrorist organizations profiting from the illegal wildlife trade — would give wildlife crime a prominent place in the U.S. government’s national and regional security strategies. U.S. residents can help by taking a moment to send a message to their U.S. representative, telling them to support the Global Anti-Poaching Act.

I find when I get an email about a subject that is important to me, that sending a message to my US representative, telling them to support this issue or that issue, while it means something, it used to leave me with a blank spot.

Now, I make it a point to keep a list near my computer of who they are so that contacting them is easy. For me, it is just a phone call away. I can call Tom McClintock at either his Washington Office or his Roseville office and leave a message with the aide who answers the phone. They do keep records of how many calls on what subject. It is the same in every state, the way to be effective is to have the numbers handy. Tom’s number in Washington is: 202-225-2511.

If you are a Californian, State Senator Tom Berryhill, 916-651-4008.

The State Assembly Frank Bigelow, 916-319-2005.

Please help by cutting from the phone book the numbers and addresses you need and keep them close to your computer. Then do it!

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A RAINY DAY AT FORT WORDEN STATE PARK

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Fort Worden has two campgrounds and we chose the beach area. These trees were silhouetted against a cloudy sky.DSC09085 (Copy)

It is easy to see which way the wind blows. Rain was in the forecast. We set up camp and decided to walk to the two science museums on the grounds.

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On the way, we stopped at this little free library.  We just turned in bags of books at our last campground, so I had none to trade. We continued to the science museums and both were closed. They begin their winter hours after Labor Day. We got caught in the rain and had to run for the motorhome. Our wet clothes were set to dry while we had dinner.

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The storm lasted about an hour and we took the opportunity to walk the beach. A distant light house beckoned. In places we had to climb over rocks to escape the incoming tide.

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We talked to two women from Pullman, WA. who were gathering beach shells and glass in the surf. We peeked into their buckets and admired their pretties.  They wore simple sweatshirts during weather I found brutally cold with wind enough to knock you over.  I met a fellow from my part of Michigan who wore a simple long-sleeved shirt and remarked at how nice the weather is here. I told him I’d never leave California for Michigan despite my roots.

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After we’d passed them, one woman came back and offered to share some of her beach glass with me. Wasn’t that sweet? I declined since we have jars of beach stones and glass from other beaches we’ve visited, particularly the Glass Beach in California that was once a dump.

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Besides, the beach was strewn with rocks and and shells at the tide line.

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Close to the lighthouse, someone spent time balancing rocks called cairns. Most make it five stones high. Some go six and seven.

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I put together a seven, then the rock toppled and I couldn’t retrieve it, so I settled for a six.

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The lighthouse was built in 1913, one hundred one years old. So important in their time. No visitors.

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Past the lighthouse, we got up on the breakwater and walked.

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Driftwood, sometimes whole trees, enough to build a house

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It ages so beautifully.

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We watched six fishermen with fly rods where the breakwater began to peter out.

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We met an honest fisherman. He said he is going for fish and chips at a local restaurant.

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Wives waiting on the beach with their blue-eyed Australian Shepherd. They said the salmon season is just starting and only a certain kind of salmon can be taken. They were unsure, but think that if it is a king salmon, they have to throw it back. They can take silvers.

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We returned to the motor home just before the second storm hit. It rocked the motorhome, threatened to tear off the vents and our closed awning, and blew and rattled everything that moved along with heavy rains. I stowed our ground rug under the motorhome because the wind was folding it and moving it from its appointed spot. We have yet to check and see if we still have a rug.

 

 

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CANOEING, AND THE HIGH STEEL BRIDGE

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The morning before cousin Bob arrived, Melissa invited me to go canoeing on nearby Lake Kokanee.

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It isn’t a very big lake, just right sized, with smooth as glass waters.

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She steered and we both paddled. I brought my small back-up camera and didn’t realize the lens was spotted.

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I learned to paddle and she likes canoeing better than kayaking. She finds the stroke relaxing and easy to enjoy.

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We were surrounded with beauty. The lake has picturesque little inlets.

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The weather was beautiful, perfect for photos.

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Kind of like an abstract painting.

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We saw two boats in this quiet floating painting. Perfect. The lake does not allow motors.

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Then yesterday, David and Melissa took us for a scenic drive, through Shelton, Potlach, and on to Hoodsport and above to view the High Steel Bridge.  I think we traveled, north, south, east and west. My sense of geography and direction are not to be depended upon. We stopped here,  hoping to get a glimpse of Mt. Rainer.  Can you see it?  Neither could we. It was totally under cloud cover, but what a lovely little valley.

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I caught a glimpse of a little spot of fall.

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We probably spent an hour on the bridge, trying for the perfect photo of this deep canyon, with a thin stream of falls to one side.

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The Skykomish River forged this deep canyon eons ago.

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A triple fall replenishes this portion of the canyon. On everyone’s lips, “We should come see this canyon during winter.”  Of course, the falls would be  spectacular.

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We kept taking picture after picture.

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But who can question mother nature’s plan.

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We returned to the site and enjoyed our last meal together and said our goodbyes, with promises to meet again soon, now that we’ve gotten to know each other. And, I’m sure we will. I’m so grateful we were able to re-connect with cousins, meet Melissa and their little dog, Toby, and enjoy new adventures.

 

 

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COUSIN REUNION.

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From Aberdeen, Washington, Melissa and David Moore invited us to their campsite at Lake Cushman Park. My father and David’s father were brothers. We’re not sure how long its been since we met. We do know it has been over 60 years.  That black ball of fur is Toby.DSC08894 (Copy)

Our ancestry connects us, but we found we have a lot in common, love of nature and books, and pets. For instance, we both were familiar with the small house movement. David went to see one of those 124 square foot places, but that was a bit too small. He built this neat cabin where he and his wife can get out of the rain and the confines of their small trailer and sit in a leisure chair and read, enjoy a snooze like a mini living room. A small footprint in the middle of a rainforest.

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A towering alder forest behind them leads to a delightful creek.

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A fallen alder stretches across the spongy duff of mosses and dead leaves. I estimated its height at 70 feet.

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Two of them provide a bench at the side of the creek, David’s favorite spot.  The quiet, burbling water, cool temperature, a personal haven.

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Melissa has her own favored place that looks upon her private “beach”.DSC08911 (Copy)

Of course, this creek roars and rises and gushes through this woods in winter.

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The mosses remind us of Louisiana.DSC08915 (Copy)

They eat into every crevice.

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David pointed out to us that this property was once an old growth forest. Average rain here is 100 inches and this is known as the dry side of the Olympic Penninsula. Huge stumps are a reminder of the lust for timber. The area was clear cut years and years ago. Like the Louisiana cypress, men in their folly cut every giant tree.

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On this particular stump, he pointed out, you can see where the logger cut a crevice and inserted a shelf to stand on while sawing the tree down, something hard to contemplate. It was most likely a dangerous business to be a sawyer.

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This forest may never be the same again, but with people like Melissa and David, in private lots and ownership, it is unlikely to fall to the axe and saws again, though it is questionable if it will ever regrow those giant trees.  (I forgot to ask what they were. Possibly redwoods.) But, mother nature, if given the chance…who knows? In the meantime, we can all enjoy the beauty and appreciate nature.

 

 

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