goingplaceslivinglife

Travel, Food, and Slices of Life


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It Could Be You

So many of us are living paycheck to paycheck, stressed to pay all the bills we have and concerned that something may happen to shake your world. Losing your job would do that. Getting seriously ill also would do that. Few of us have enough in savings to ride through months of being unemployed.  Taking a minimum wage part time job won’t help.

cant-pay-bills-on-timeSo then, what happens? You can’t pay your rent or mortgage, your power gets turned off after a few months and you manage to get it paid by going to one of the churches who has a Compassion Fund for things like that. You go to food panties to save on grocery costs and then to soup kitchens to get a warm meal as often as possible.

So then, what happens? You stop answering the phone because you know the calls are from debt collectors.  The day comes when you get the eviction notice.

So then, what happens? You can’t or won’t turn to family or friends.  Either your relationship with them are not healthy or they are as financially stressed as you were.  Or you do approach them and they welcome you, for a time, and it becomes a cycle of a few days on the couch and then you move on. Your appearance deteriorates as your emotional health is shaken to the core. It is just about impossible to think clearly to find your way out of this quagmire.

So then, what happens?  You retreat. You run and hide. You might be using drugs or alcohol to blunt the pain. You find yourself on the street.

You think it can’t happen? That everyone you see wandering the street pushing shopping carts full of their belongings muttering to themselves can’t be you?

Yes, some of the people on the street have mental illness. Yes, some are using drugs and/or booze to blunt the pain of their situation and the addiction adds to the problem. Yes, some are lost souls. But not all. In fact, not most.

All are people with a need to have some basics: shelter, food, and love….yes love.

We have places that in the name of “family values” are making laws to run the homeless out of town.  Those may or may not be the same towns that also had sunset laws mandating that all the “colored help” must leave the town limits by sunset. Fear and bigotry in the new age.

colddogI see a lot of postings on Facebook not to leave pets outside in the winter weather. A good, heartfelt warning to many people who own dogs but keep them tied up outside.  A reminder to people who feed stray cats but prefer them outside.  We feel for the helpless, the four- legged creatures who rely on us.

Find some compassion for the two-legged homeless.homeless-in-snow

There are solutions. Salt Lake City, for example, crunched the numbers and it became clear that the cost to the city per homeless person was running about $20,000 a year. When abandoned housing was converted into apartment space for the homeless, the cost dropped to $7,000 per person per year and reduced the number of homeless on the streets by 74% since 2005. New York City and many other cites have program to put housing first. THEN the social assistance programs to help with health issues, job training and more.

Here in McMinnville, there is an organization with the acronym of CWISH: Community Winter Inclement Shelter Help.  We heard about it last year but this year Graham has gotten involved as one of the three coordinators. Five area churches open their doors on a schedule to provide warm and dry shelter during the winter.

This morning in Portland, Oregon

This morning in Portland, Oregon

The current cold front started two night ago and so, one of the local churches has hosted 12 and then 15 people the last two nights. Families are welcome. Women and men are offered safe, warm and dry shelter.  They will continue to host tonight and tomorrow night and then pass the baton on to another of the participating churches. Volunteers are needed to be at the church in four-hour shifts from 8pm to 8am.

This is a band aid but efforts are being made to come up with a better solution. Once again, I am glad we chose to move here. This is a town with a heart.

What are you doing?

 


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The Fine Line

McMinnville caught our attention as a place to live when we were doing our research for a number of reasons. Graham first read about one of the local chefs who had spent several years in Italy learning how to make charcuterie and now runs the Fino in Fondo salumeria….he makes salami. Then Graham became aware of how this region excels in making pinot noir wine and as one who suffers gladly from oenophilia, he was happy to try to meet the challenge of the 100+ wineries in this county alone. east to cascadesMeanwhile, my research determined that this region of the Willamette Valley is truly a garden; among the vineyards and farms growing grass for seed and others growing most of the nations’ landscaping plants, there are many many farms producing food.  I hoped to replicate my involvement with The Wild Ramp in some way.  In addition, as a city planner, I appreciated the effort that a group of people in McMinnville had made to turn the downtown around. Once a strip of many vacant stores in the mid 1980s, the street now is tree lined and vibrant with boutique shops and services, almost all locally owned and operated.Dec 6a

McMinnville doubled in size since the 1970s and more people continue to move here. A license plate perusal in the parking lot during the Saturday morning breakfast served by the Cooperative Ministries identified many out of state cars. In talking to one family, one of the church members was told that the news that McMinnville serves free meals every day has spread, and many homeless people are finding their way to this town.

This creates a bit of a dilemma.

I am on a small committee investigating ways to help the business owners on our main street, NW 3rd Street, with the “loitering” problem that exists.  Some hang out on street corners, panhandling. These people are well known to locals, as they have had their spots for years and their stories are known. One Vietnam Vet just waits until he collects about $20 and then buys his wine and rambles back home.   Some hang at the library, but many have no interest in the benefits of what a library offers, so a lack of proper behavior gets them banished. Some hang around downtown, blocking shop entrances, making comments to young women, and smoking any number of substances.

St BHeart2Heart foodIt truly is amazing to hear the services that are available in this county for people who need assistance. There are meals available every day of the week, for example.  The St. Barnabus Soup Kitchen serves dinner four evenings a week; it is not unusual for over 300 people to be fed.

Meanwhile, one of the farmers I have met, Tyler of Heart2Heart Farms, has made a tremendous effort to collect edible  fresh produce from area sources and have it available for free for those in need. He just collected enough through crowd sourcing to buy a large truck to help collect and transport the food to his farm. All he asks is a few hours of volunteer work in exchange and he tells me that few offer to help.

My concern is that we have forgotten how to teach people to fish and we are providing fish dinners so often that many have no desire to learn the skills to manage their own pathway. In our effort to provide a hand and a safety net the actual message, as spoken by the California man in the Cooperative Ministries parking lot, is McMinnville is a place to go to be taken care of.

It’s a fine line between helping and enabling.

fishing4

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ADDENDUM: A friend has suggested that this post seems to be a bit judgmental about the homeless. That was not my intention.  At an earlier time of my life, when I was home with the baby and my husband suffered a stroke while undergoing surgery for brain cancer, I was in a tough spot. No income. My landlord was the amazing spirit in those days, telling us the last thing we needed was to worry about the rent. He permitted us 6 months free rent until the social security disability kicked in and we could once again start paying. I have no idea what it did to his own finances; I just know without his offer, we would have been out the door.

The blog, however, is a bit judgmental about the programs offered here in McMinnville. I believe what began as a way to help people through a bad time may have become a regular routine for many. I believe the need is still there. I just think there has to be another way to help people out of the hole they are in.  Some of the people who take advantage of the meals offered in this town may never be able to have anything close to a lifestyle where they can support themselves, but there are others who were working, became unemployed and for a number of reasons  have not found another job. Those are the people I think might be able to be helped with a different kind of assistance. There are plans underway to do just that; it is just some time off in the future before it becomes active.