Taking advantage of park programsPosted by in Homelessness
Last night while taking a nap in a parking lot, a police officer woke me up when his flashlight shone on my face. I motioned for him to approach the driver’s side door where I had the window open. I told him I was just too tired to drive to the nearest rest stop several miles away and all I wanted to do was take a nap before hitting the road again. I figured it was safer to take a nap that chance driving on the freeway half asleep. The officer nodded and said that he appreciated me doing that as it was a safer option. He verified I was the owner of the van and then told me that the neighborhood I was in was not a safe place to be. He apologized for waking me up then told me to have a nice nap. I was disheartened to hear that this neighborhood wasn’t as safe as it used to be as this was the very same parking lot I used to park my Minnie Winnebago in overnight. Looks like I’ll be looking for other places to sleep for the night.
Thankfully, my conversation with the officer didn’t wake my daughter sleeping in the seat directly behind me. I was able to sleep for another few hours but was wide awake at 7 am. After a cheap breakfast, I drove to a nearby park to help my daughter get cleaned up and put on a change of clothes. Although it was cloudy out, it didn’t look like it would rain so I let my daughter ride her razor scooter around the park for awhile. An hour later we noticed two young people setting up arts and crafts and board games up on the tables under the covered picnic areas. I started a conversation with a young woman while her male counterpart emerged from the park’s storage shed with a tall plastic rolling cart. The young lady told me that every summer, the Kent Parks Department runs a kids program that serves sack lunches at the park. While there, the kids can play games and interact with each other. My daughter was so excited about this program that she insisted on having lunch there. The two staff members overseeing the program told me that the program is open to all and my daughter was free to join in. I was relieved to hear that this program is every Monday through Thursday and starts from about 9 am to 4 pm.
I met other single parents, grandparents and older siblings taking advantage of this program. I listened as some of the parents told me that they take advantage of programs at various parks that offer activities and free meals for their kids. I also learned that it was the local school district that delivered the sack lunches to the parks. While driving around today I saw many signs advertising free cook-outs sponsored by groups like the Kiwanis and even a barbecue and chili competition put on by the local miners of a small town! Now there’s an event I wouldn’t mind taking part in! I understand that there’s a big debate going on about public feedings but I think that as long as these feedings are regulated for sanitation, it would be a safe way to feed the hungry, especially for needy children.
Speaking of hungry children, on my way to Auburn Youth Resources this afternoon, I discovered that there was a mix-up on the date I was to talk to AYR about the We Are Visible community. It’s NEXT Thursday! I don’t know why I thought I was supposed to be in Auburn today but it turned into an interesting coincidence. I had dropped off my youngest daughter at my brother’s house to play with her cousins while at AYR and when I returned, I noticed my nieces were hungry. I took a peek into the family pantry and noticed that there wasn’t much in it. I know my brother and his wife both work but with three kids and a hurting economy, it just isn’t enough. They are always one paycheck away from homelessness themselves, just like many other families. My oldest niece told me her mother was going to be awhile as she was still at work so I drove down to the local grocery store and picked up 4 frozen pizza’s. I don’t have much money myself but I never turn my back on hungry kids. By the time my sister in-law got home, she was thankful for the pizza’s. I told her about the free lunch programs the parks offered as it certainly will help boost their food budget.
While we ate our pizza’s, my sister in-law told me that a tire on her car kept losing air and she was waiting for my brother to get home but since he was running late, the local tire shop down the street would be closed. I followed my sister in-law down the road to leave her car at the shop. When the shop called back to say the tire was fixed, I took my sister in-law back to shop to get her car. She wanted to give me gas money but I couldn’t take it because I didn’t want her to spend their grocery money. She said that she didn’t mind as I made a wasted trip out to Auburn. I told her that in my mind, it wasn’t a wasted trip. Maybe it wasn’t a coincidence I showed up when I did. Maybe I was exactly where I needed to be today.
I did mention that I had a bunch of extra vegetable plants I had started awhile back. I plan on clearing out a section alongside my brother’s fence and putting in some tomato plants, cucumbers, peas, radishes and lettuces. These will grow fairly quickly and fresh produce in a small garden will help provide food they don’t have to go out and buy. Maybe next year I can convince them to put in a real garden for fresh vegetables next year.
That’s my story for the day, what’s yours?