A Frosty Point in Time

I woke up this morning to the sun shining nice and bright through my window again. I’m going to love waking up here. 🙂

I started off my day writing my volunteerism story for La Puente’s newsletter. After, I began the article about the Point in Time count. It should be in The Valley Courier for next week! After talking with Dores (Adelante Director), Jordan, Nicole and Anna (the three case managers for Adelante) a bit more about Point in Time and homelessness in the area, I got a better picture of the significance of homelessness in the Valley.

As I mentioned in my previous post, homelessness in rural areas is often more difficult to detect. And with temperature way below freezing here in the Valley, you won’t see any of the homeless population out on the streets.

Here’s a few more things I learned today that are worth noting:

1. La Puente’s shelter is one of the oldest rural shelters in the country.

2.Unemployment in Alamosa reaches over 22% in the winter. Many are migrants working seasonally on the local farms in the area.

3. There’s no public transportation in Alamosa. The closest town is 20 minutes and it takes an hour to leave the Valley. With limited jobs during the winter and with no transportation to leave Alamosa during the winter months, homelessness and poverty is inevitable.

4. Word of mouth from friends and agencies are sending homeless from larger cities to Alamosa for La Puente’s services—but again, there are very few opportunities for employment here!

An excerpt from Lance Cheslock’s paper on Rural Homelessness. Lance has been the Executive Director of La Puente since 1989!

“The reality is that getting accurate counts on rural homelessness is difficult. Most States’ point-in-time counts recommend an urban-centric counting protocol, and provide no financial support for the outreach efforts needed to undertake effective rural and frontier counts. Rural “counts” frequently rehash HMIS intake numbers, and provide counts only of those who have already established service with mainstream providers. The HUD requirement of counting in January leaves the demographic of those who are homeless on the frontier and in rural America – as well as immigrants who migrate to follow agricultural and seasonal employment – invisible and unaccounted for. These factors have resulted in a Swiss cheese map of rural rates of homelessness, contrary to what one would expect given the well-defined poverty rates. Rural Mississippi, for example, is widely known for its extreme poverty, and yet is portrayed as having one of the lowest rates of homelessness in the country. Conversely, well-implemented counts in the Balance of State COC’s in Georgia, Colorado, and Washington State portray rates of homelessness equal to – or greater than – those of their urban counterparts.”

I signed up to take some Spanish classes while I’m here. I want to get to know the locals within the community beyond “¡Hola! ¿Cómo estás? ¿Habla ingles?”

I had the afternoon to wander around town and peak in some of the shops. First stop, Rainbow’s End! Rainbow’s End is La Puente’s thrift store. I picked up a toothbrush holder (to keep my toothbrush from falling into our toilet) and two matted boards to hang some photos for a whopping $0.43. If only people spent more time shopping at secondhand stores like this for all of their needs!

After watching the documentary Bag It on Netflix with David while I was in Cleveland last week, I want to be more mindful of what I am consuming and throwing away. For starters, I really want to cut back on plastics in my life. No more plastic bags. No more plastic utensils etc…think about all of the ridiculous things that are wrapped and rewrapped in plastic. The one that really gets me is the individual slices of cheese that are wrapped in plastic, only to be wrapped again in more plastic! And what happened to the old milk cartons where there wasn’t a plastic cap to pour from, or the plastic seal tab inside that plastic cap?

Just think how many disposable items we buy every day. “Just because plastic bags are disposable, doesn’t mean they go away. Where is away?”

Why can’t we make items of better quality that are durable and long-lasting. Or, if something broke on an appliance, why can’t we just replace that part, rather than throwing away the entire thing and buying a new one!

I am going to be more conscious of my spending while I am here, too. Every penny I spend will be noted throughout the year, including my big purchase at Rainbow’s End today. I really want to challenge myself to spend less and live as minimally and simply as I can. I’ll eat my lunches at the shelter whenever I can and cut back on purchasing additional material items.

Buy experiences, not things. With that being said, we’re continuing to plan our thru-hike on the Appalachian Trail next year! It’s going to come up so fast.

Tonight I went with Miranda, Caroline and Hannah (Shelter volunteers) to the outdoor ice rink. Erin, Josh, Timmy and Austin joined. (Small world glimpse: Timmy lived in Watkins Glenn for two years when he was younger and I later met someone who went to Case Western who also told me a local friend used to live in Kent, OH.) For $3 we got to skate around in 0-degree weather with frost forming in my hair! It was a lot of fun, though the frost in my hair looked like I was graying.
We ate at the San Luis Valley Pizza Company, followed by a visit to a local bar called Bank Shot where the rest of the volunteers were. It was Jordan’s birthday and Free Pool Friday.

When we were getting ready to leave Katie told me not to worry but that everyone hugs each other at least two times, then they talk some more, hug one more and might think about leaving again—but that they really don’t leave right away and that next time I should seriously consider bringing a book with me. Lots of hugs all around. I love how loving and caring this group of volunteers are.

Miranda learning how to skate from Caroline:

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One thought on “A Frosty Point in Time

  1. Fixing things can be rewarding. We spent a pleasant hour today talking to the DirecTV technician about sports, home, jobs, family while he fixed our connection with the main stream media. He enjoyed himself, solved a problem, shared the solution and gave us his personal cell number so that we could call him anytime in case we have a satellite TV question in FL, NY or anywhere. And he makes a living, pays taxes, etc.

    Back when I was a teacher/house painter in rural and suburban New Jersey, I would notice the number of vans belonging to service and repair people that were parked in driveways. Housewives in upper middle class areas got lonely, found that something needed fixing. People too busy at their own jobs needed service and repair people to maintain their stuff and their property. Automation (we learned that we could fix the TV problem by using the remote and a set of steps, and that diagnosis and repair is gradually being programmed into the devices, so the system is gradually learning to repair itself), disposables that are so cheap that repair is more expensive than replacement, artificially cheap resources (environmental, social costs are shared), nanotechnology (working parts are too small, tightly integrated to see, much less repair) and cheap labor — all this may be working to diminish, prevent, discourage interaction between people and people, people and machines and people and useful, satisfying and life-sustaining work. Or, are we just en route to a new paradigm in which labor is devalued and shared burdens and resources provide us with just another set of relationships? Call center people, online how-to videos might provide virtual neighbors to whom we can turn for advice as we consume and dispose of increasingly small, complex and inscrutable materials.

    BTW, I love what you are doing on this site.

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