Dear Reader of Homeless Issues:The following is a true story from a real person at Hangtown Haven. We thought it reflected the good of this work and wanted you to see it too.
“Reflections Beside the Campfire”
As I sit looking around the campfire I am reminded of all the amazing stories. I am reed of the triumphs and the defeats but mostly I am reminded of the hope that a simple community can create and the support that is offered and the grace received. The love that endures in a population that many wish would simply disappear. Let me share some of these stories.
M- a gentle spirit who is plagued with such severe arthritis some days he can barely move. I remember a few Saturdays ago we had an abundance of donations. Matt pulled me aside and mentioned a family living just up the street with two teenage boys. He said they were having a very hard time financially and had no food. About and hour later the father arrived and we were able to fill his trunk with food. The man went away in tears and all he said was imagine this from a homeless camp. I recently found out that M use his SS to pay that families back rent so they didn’t lose their home.
R- is a jolly soul who served our country in the U.S. Military. In the past year he has had two open heart surgeries the most recent about three months ago to have a stint put in his heart. When they went in he had a 99% blockage. As a family we watched and held our breath wait for him to return to us and he did. He always has a witty comment or an off color joke to offer. He’s also the first to say cut the crap. He struggles with alcoholism but has done better at HTH than he ever has.
C- is a young man who came to us fresh out of jail. He has been a frequent guest there. He was cocky and full of himself. We worried about him but before long he began to step outside of himself. He began to take great pride in having a neat and orderly well kept area. During the summer he signed up for college. He is amazing example of determination. He has also turned out to be quite the gentleman always willing to walk one of the girls to the store or make sure they get to the bus safely. He has humbled himself and always has a ready smile.
G- is an older gentleman that has experienced more tragedy in his life than anyone should have to endure. He lost his wife and child to a drunk driver some years ago. This was followed by four other tragic losses in his life. We often hear G screaming from the night terrors he still suffers from. G used to make a living as a taxi driver however do to the effects of diabetes he is unable to see well enough to do his own shopping. He is basically unable to leave camp without escort.
JW- is Bi-polar Schizo-effective. She requires constant stability. She also must be watched constantly as her mood can swing drastically from Giddiness to sobbing to aggressive behavior. She finds a great deal of support at HTH. There is always a persons willing listen to her or just hold her if she is upset and there is no shortage of comedians when a silly distraction is needed. We call her our Pillsbury dough baby. Just poke her belly and see hear her giggle.
T- is one of our strongest individuals both physically and mentally. He is always there to lend a hand. If there is work to be done that is where you will find him. He is also always there to remind me that the fastest way to have a good day is to start with putting a smile on my face. About a month ago T suffered a stroke while working for a gentleman that only pays fifty dollars a day for ten hours of hard labor. T was released from prison after serving fourteen years for a commercial burglary during the three strikes days for all crime. He came away from that experience on of the most grateful and thankful men I have ever known. He volunteers his time
S- is a nineteen year old young woman who despite growing up with a mother suffering from addiction issues and having a severe learning disability earned her certificate of completion from El Dorado High has chosen to go back to adult ed and try to continue her education. She loves working with the elderly and has been seeking employment in that field.
JA- came to HTH after spending three years in prison for an alcohol related offense. If you had asked him four years ago, he would tell you that he planned to die and alcoholic. Now he is a member of the leadership council of HTH. He is deeply involved in service at Green Valley Community Church. He has never missed a service and he is a strong advocate for a clean and sober lifestyle. He offers compassion when needed and tough love when necessary. He was baptized on April 25th with the rest of the Community Council for the Hangtown Haven.
H- was a hopeless drunk who suffered from major mental health issue stemming from physical abuse suffered as a child. He now has just over 100 day sober. He spends a lot of time helping a friend of his on his farm. His mental health issues have stabilized and he is now calm and always quick to tease and poke fun reminding us not to take ourselves too seriously. He is also quick to offer a reminder that this is our home and we must treat it as such.
L- came to us after being viciously raped. She came to us very fragile and lost. I will never forget the look on her face when she said “do you not want me” That is a question no human being should ever have to ask. She is young in her sobriety and yet reaches out to every lost soul she can find always with an offering of love and hope usually said at mach ten speed and always with a vibrant smile. She cannot go back out into the hills vulnerable and alone. He was baptized on April 25th with others from Hangtown Haven.
K- will forever be apart of the heart and soul of HTH. They both came to be by Grace and determination. K who came to Placerville in search of his sister ended up find a much larger family. He had offered wisdom, support and leadership to HTH since its inception. K is a staunch protector of our family. He is also the first to remind us that we have rules and standards and that they must adhere to. He was baptized on April 25th with the rest of the Community Council for the Hangtown Haven.
LR- is currently in recovery he came from a tough background. He has had very little support in his life. He came to us like most with no family and therefore very little connection to the world around him. He found a family and therefore a connection. He is a gentle giant. I often marvel at the sight of his large form embracing the small form of JW offering comfort and love. He has worked in the field of caregiving and was devastated when his client and friend passed away.
F- a brilliant mind. A member of the Community Council. A regular attendee of Green Valley. He walks out of church every Sunday with a word for the week. He is the conscience and the boundary guard for the Community Council. He pours his heart and soul into the marketing of HTH and giving people a very strong visual representation of who we are and what we represent.
C- is a young man who suffers from severe learning disabilities and mental health issues. His father committed suicide when he was young and his mother turned to drugs and alcohol. He is another kind soul who unfortunately illustrates what hopelessness really looks like. He functions well in the acceptance. He has even begun to thrive. He is going to school to try and get his GED now.
B- is an alcoholic who is in recovery. He was recently diagnosed with prostate cancer. He came to us with some reservation on both sides. He has turned out to be a great cook a great friend and great communicator. He relies on our support and friendship to alleviate his fears. He has truly made himself a part of our family. He was baptized on April 25th with others from Hantown Haven.
DM- is a great kid. Due to an unfortunate accident when he was 17, he has no short term memory. We often tease him that having him in camp is like the movie 50 First Dates. He is sweet and friendly. If you ask him when he was born if he remembers that he has an ID he will pull it out and check. He doesn’t leave camp without a buddy because he gets lost. He is always willing to accompany one of the girls on a day of errands so that she isn’t alone.
JD- is a paranoid schizophrenic who also suffers from severe sciatic pain. There are days that she is totally unable to walk. She relies on our family to check on her and give her food. She also needs to be watch to make sure she doesn’t become confused and if she does then there are people around to help keep her safe.
DA- struggles with depression and addiction. He has found a family who does not judge and has been on track for stabilizing his mental health and staying clean and sober. He is helpful around camp and often quick to offer a grin or a poke in the side.
SR- is also Bi-Polar Schizo-effective. She came to us as a zombie. She had been over medicated and actually overdosed on her medication. We ended up calling an ambulance for her and she was hospitalized for two weeks. She is back now and very fearful about her future. He was baptized on April 25th with others from Hangtown Haven.
D- is diagnosed as Bi-Polar. She is separated from her family right now while she works on herself and her mental health. She is always quick to play a game of dice with anyone who needs company or a distraction. She has an infectious smile. She is a voice for those who need one and is always willing to fight for someone who needs it.
CH- is a mother struggling to start over. She is clean and sober. She has been the victim of domestic violence. She helps prepares meal regularly. She does shopping for those who can’t go themselves. She has immersed herself in volunteering at GVCC as well as participating in several of the Lifeskills classes offered there.
JC- is coming up on 180 days clean and sober. If you had asked anyone in Placerville 190 days ago to list the town drunks this gentleman’s name would have been high on the list. Now he is a volunteers at the CRC. He is our camp goofball always laughing and making those around him laugh. He is kind and funny.
SM- suffers from major depression. She came to us after being in a T-house for about six months. If you ask her now though she will tell you that she is happier than she ever has been. She will also tell you that we live in a place of miracles. A place where there is a home without walls, a family without strife and hope without bounds. She smiles more than she frowns, laughs more than she cries and gives more than she takes.
RN- is a member of the Community Council. I came here after the tragic loss of my mother. What I found was a family, a faith and a home. I have found a passion for what Hangtown Haven does. I have found purpose and a reward greater than I could imagine.
I look around and I think of those who have come and gone. I think of the miracle this place is and can continue to be. I wonder what the expectation is. If you take our home away you just expand the problem. How can you take a solution and turn it back into a problem. Why take one step forward and two back. The courageous men and women who have fought to come this far deserve better than to be cast aside and forgotten. They have fought so hard and appreciate every ounce of support along the way. We pray that everyone who has supported us or wanted to stand together and help us find an answer. Five weeks is a long time especially when you imagine what God did in seven days.
Becky is on the Community Council at Hangtown Haven.