By Justin



strikes matches

through alleys

under bridges


finding me


in my palms


she whispers: flesh

is a constraint that splits

overshadows our illuminations


her words ripple

on the air



into pigeons

circling my feet


I continue

to look away

she disappears


—feathers hanging

from the corners

of my mouth





Justin is a young resident of Santa Barbara, currently housed and attending school. 


What of It?



By Doug Miller



What of the poor and weary worn soul,


The life-long tenant of misery and woe,


Who searches for calm in bushes or hole,


Whose mansion is tent and soiled torn roll,


Crying for sleep midst the law’s sharpened hoe,


‘Til rest finally comes ‘neath a rugged crossed pole?






*Doug Miller is a Common Ground SB volunteer. 
















By Wayne Myers


here is mystery:

that he lay like a seed

in the heart of the earth


or like an insentient caterpillar

entombed for the sake of

a butterfly


he lay stiff and dry

and by most accounts

as dead as a dog


for three days or three

years or three thousand

years and yet i saw him




stinking with life: his beard

matted, his clothes greasy

and ill-fitted, his eyes shining

with  zodiacal madness. He

was still dragging his twelve

disciples around but they

looked like a bunch of

junkies now, pale, and the

way they shuffled their feet


like cats on fire-escapes

coughing hard into their clenched

fists sometimes because they all

smoked too much and

spent too many nights rushing

head-down in the rain up

one alleyway and down

another till they were home.




He told them stories


while they sat on the dusty roadside

eating figs, stories about water-carriers

and fish and the vast, celestial distances

that lay between them. He peeled his apple

in one long red coil while he described

the brooding emptiness of space and the

stirring of protons as they began to fall

headlong toward the sun.


He lay back then,

pillowing His head upon

a smooth stone and soon

He was asleep.




Taking the High Road

By L. E. Hulse

Light from the passing car
Dances back and forth across the sidewalk
Stepping in and out on the pools of water
Scattered out over the broken concrete
Like landmines ready to claim you as
Another victim in the on going struggle
To survive on the wet and lonely streets.

If you’re not careful
The struggle can turn into survival
And time can wander off
Only to vanish into the sunset.

But sometimes the different seasons
Can come around
And provide a little hope like
Flowers to pick
Stories to tell
Songs to sing
People to meet
And mountains to climb
And maybe…
If you’re lucky
Even another chance to reach the top.


L. E. Hulse is a frequent contributor to this blog. He was homeless for several years, but recently moved into a studio apartment in the City of Santa Barbara.



Wayne Myers is a prolific writer and poet and homeless in the City of Santa Barbara.










By Wayne Myers

My dear, brilliant boy,
how like a sword art thou,
how tall and straight and remorselessly sharp,
how grim and final and driven by neither god nor the devil
but by the ugly fuckin’ truth, the truth which is often a violent truth,
a truth full of blue despair and abcesses and lies
and men in stiff, black, patent-leather shoes crashing through rain puddles
and lurking in dark alleyways with clubs, herding people, herding them.

People we don’t even know. People of whom we only catch glimpses,
through bus windows or sometimes on television or even in that little,
yellow room at the end of the hall where the blonde,
pale but pretty dopefiend lives
and burns candles
for Jesus and
to stay warm.

I’d Like to Help a Single Mother I’ve Never Met

Raymond Trower was homeless in SB for three years. He now lives in Tulsa, in a house, with a dog.

By Raymond Trower

Have many times have you read or noticed a post by someone only to glance at it and shrug it off? Myself? I can’t count the times. Now let me ask, how many times has a post you shrugged off stuck with you, drawn you back to it for a closer look? Well that happened to me a couple of days ago.

I was scanning posts on one of the many sites I visit looking for interesting stories to post on my own blog site or Facebook page. As I was reading over the many post, one caught my eye, but only momentarily. I shrugged it off. But I went back to it several times. The more I read it the more I saw. The more I saw, the more my desire grew to do something. Which brings me to this point.

The post was written simply and I would like to share it with you. (Personal information has been edited)

“If you or any one you know have a fake tall Christmas tree you want gone please let me know, I am a single mother of two, and I have yet to know how I’m going to get my kid’s presents but if I have a tree it will still feel like Christmas.”

Here is this mother of two children, and all she is asking for is a Christmas tree. (Her old one fell apart last year.) She’s not asking for a new tree, or live tree, just a used tree. A tall used tree.

How could I not respond to this. I wasn’t sure of what, if anything, I could do, but I knew I had to try something. I contacted the woman (we’ll call her BD) through the site listing her post via email. I asked if she would be interested in sharing her story with others.

She was timid at first, not wanting to be made fun of or come off sounding like a beggar. I assured her that was not my intention. After several emails and text I learned more about her situation. This is her story…

“My name is BD, I am a single mother of two beautiful children. I have a son who is 9 and my daughter will be 11 in January. I am looking for help trying to find a used Christmas tree that someone might be getting rid of.  Ours fell apart last year, I am unsure on how I am going to provide gifts for my kids this year, but I know if we have a tree we still can decorate it as a family and have the warm feeling Christmas brings.   Please know we are not beggars and that up to recently I have worked my whole life.  I have had two knee surgeries and am waiting to find out if I am having more.”

I soon found out that BD, in her early thirties, worked as a general manager of three salons. One day, while working on a ladder, she fell backwards off the ladder onto a table. The  results were she displaced both knee joints and damaged her back, as she was double up after the fall. She is currently waiting on temporary disability. Most of us on disability know how long that can take.

BD has 18 years experience in the hair care industry. She considers herself a strong woman, and after communicating with her I would readily tend to agree. She also mentions the fact that she has to borrow what she can to help with bills, trying to make ends meet while fighting to keep her car.

I asked BD more about her children, it was my idea to post a need, want and desire list for these two young children who may not have a Christmas this year. I also asked BD what she needed or would like to have, other than the tree that is, but more on that later. As stated before, she has two children, a son who is nine, and a daughter soon to be eleven in January. Please let’s make this a Merry Christmas, and Happy Birthday for these children. Here is a list of sizes and needs.

The son, age 9, loves x box and would like new Skylander characters for his game. He wears a 10 reg in pants, an 11/12 in shirts, and his shoe size is 3. He also needs a new comforter set. (I am assuming twin size.)

When I asked what he desired, BD told me her son would love to play soccer.

The daughter, age 11 (almost), loves anything Monster High, her sizes are 10 reg., size 3 shoe. She also needs a new twin comforter set.

When asked about her desires, the reply was she would love to ride a horse.

BD would love to take both children to a theme park someday.

There are two realizations for me after my conversations with BD, and while writing this:

Number one is BD loves her children very much and is willing to do whatever she can for them, even if it is only asking for a used Christmas tree.

Number two… well that is a different matter. Those of you who know me personally know I do not celebrate Christmas, at least not the way most people do. Somewhere down the road I lost the spirit of the season, but after hearing BD’s story, and writing it… let me just say I just might be on my way to finding again.

I will be comprising a wish list on for these two children. You can find a link to it at my blog

there is also a pay pal donation button.

*Author’s Note* An anonymous donor purchased a tree for BD and her children as this blog was being written. I also asked BD if she had any wants for the holiday. Her only want, need, and desire is providing for her children. She would like to have a Wal-Mart gift card to buy laundry soap and groceries. What more can I say?


SB’s Homeless Grieve a New Death

Among SB's homeless, Colleen Devine was loved and respected. Her friends say she was universally kind, but also lived dangerously.

By Isabelle T. Walker

Of the umpteen hardships that accompany being homeless, confronting death regularly is one of the particularly insidious ones. Take care of yourself as best you can, sleep in shelters, visit the free clinics, give up smoking–none of it will safeguard you. Sooner or later, someone you know, perhaps love, is going to die suddenly and prematurely.

On Wednesday, six homeless people and three Casa Esperanza staff members sat around a table to talk about the death of a 42-year-old homeless woman named Colleen Devine. Grief counselors were called in from Hospice of Santa Barbara to help residents of the shelter, and its staff, cope.

She suffered massive injuries over a week ago after being hit by a car while riding her bike. She was riding at night on South Milpas Street, and it’s thought she turned suddenly into traffic. She never regained consciousness. Family made the decision to remove her from life support more than a week later.

Colleen’s death was a blow. She was well liked among the disparate groups of un-housed in Santa Barbara. She was indefatigably social, she was loud, she was open (maybe a little too open), she was positive, she was at times reckless, not only on her bike, but in her way of life as a whole. These are some of the things people said about her in the grief session.

“You know, when people just make you feel better in the moment, about where you are,” said Nicole Menegon, who works at Casa. “[Colleen] was that person.”

“She had an exceptional presence, [she was] incredibly full of life, and always lifted my spirit,” said Jan Fadden, director of medical services at Casa.

“She was always kind to everyone, she wasn’t afraid of anything,” a tall woman seated at the end of the table, said.

Clyde Mahdi is in his mid 40s and lives at the Rescue Mission, though he expects to be in housing soon. He knew Colleen well. He sat with his elbows on the table, and while talking about Colleen, he more than once dropped his head into his hands.

“When I first heard about [the accident], I was like, ‘I don’t want to hear it.’ I wasn’t ready to hear it. Then I thought, ‘Oh, Colleen will get through this.’ But then I started to hear how bad it was.”

Mahdi lost another homeless friend seven months ago, which made this death harder to take.

Isaiah is a young man, tall and thin who has the thankless job of working security at Casa. That means he turns away people who’ve been banned for breaking shelter rules or who are drunk.

“When I first started working here, I thought everyone hated me. But then I met Colleen and everything changed. We needed her around here,” he said.

The ironic thing is that Colleen never stayed at Casa. She just visited, availed herself of the lunches, saw the nurse. She stayed outside, she camped, she stayed in RVs with friends.

The other ironic things is that Colleen had a degree in Environmental Biology from Humbolt. And she had children. At one point, not too long ago, she seemingly had it all. But not really.

“She had the degree. She had the husband, She had the white picket fence and she said ‘No, this is not what I want.’” said Fadden.

“There was something she was seeking that she didn’t quite get to,” offered someone. “But nobody here knows, I suppose,” said Isaiah.

‘The day she was hit, she went to the DMV to get her California Identification,” said Nicole, “And she signed up to be an organ donor.” After she was taken off life support, her kidneys were harvested.

The hospice workers suggested that people hold some sort of a ritual, or memorial, for Colleen, to help them say good-bye. “It’s not about forgetting them, it’s about learning to live without them,” one of them said about the grieving process.

The driver of the car was not cited after the accident. A impromptu memorial for Colleen was created on the lower Milpas sidewalk where she was thrown from the bike.  It’s near Crown Liquor Store.

“I’m never going to ride my bike again without a light. That’s going to be my thing for Colleen,” said Nicole.

BikeStation Shuts its Showers

Photo by Nick St.Oegger. To use the BikeStation on Anacapa Street, you must purchase a membership.

By Emerson Malone

The Santa Barbara BikeStation has temporarily shut down its shower and restroom facilities due to multiple complaints about homeless people taking advantage of the amenities.

“We’ve been having problems with people who are not bicycle commuters using the showers and the restrooms for extended periods of time. The BikeStation is for bicycle commuters only–not for the general public to use,” said Browning Allen, transportation manager of alternative transportation planning for Santa Barbara.

The BikeStation is designed for employee commuters and is one of numerous stations in California, all founded and run by a private entity based in Long Beach. Secure, 24-hour bike parking, 78 bike racks, lockers and tools necessary for bike repair are among the amenities offered.

But the service is exclusive to those who purchase a membership online.

The BikeStation in the Granada Garage at 1221 Anacapa Street was created in 2007 and has had this problem since it opened, officials said.

“We just finally had too many complaints and we finally had to put a stop to it,” Allen said.

Victor Garza, head of the city’s Downtown Parking Program, is proposing a way of alleviating the situation–checking the membership roster against the video log. They will interrogate anyone who they suspect is abusing their privileges.

“If they say they are just using it for the shower, we will have their membership revoked,” Garza said.

The closing of the restroom facility was a joint decision between Allen, Garza, and officials from the BikeStation company.

There have also been cases of non-members abusing other privileges in the BikeStation, including using two or three lockers concurrently.

The management of Santa Barbara BikeStation is the responsibility of the Bicycle Coalition of Santa Barbara and the Alternative Transportation Department.

“We want to get the BikeStation facility back up and running with all the amenities so those folks who are legitimate bike riders can enjoy all the benefits of the BikeStation,” Garza said.

Common Ground Santa Barbara’s Resource Guide for the homeless cites BikeStation as a place to shower.

Garza has contacted Common Ground to request that the station be removed from the list.


Helping People Again, Just Because

Ray in the computer room of Casa Esperanza, 2009.

By Raymond Trower


It wasn’t so long ago I found myself in a financial jam through no fault of my own. I was living in a one-room apartment in the small town of Henryetta, Oklahoma. I needed help paying one month of rent, thanks to changes in Medicare regulations, so I called on friends via the Homeless in SB blog.

There were a few who graciously answered my call and I received enough to cover my rent with a little extra for groceries.  I had intended to pay them back when I could, and still do at some point. Truth be known, I have forgotten who sent what, especially after having moved from Henryetta to Tulsa and would appreciate reminders from those of you who helped me out with current contact info. You can email me at:

A few months later, I turned to Facebook to ask for financial assistance–again. This time it was to help Tami (see “Nights With Raven”) come to Oklahoma. She found a ride with a friend who was going to on vacation. All we, Tami and I, had to do was come up with gas money for the trip from Morristown, Tennessee, to Tulsa, Oklahoma, where I now live. It would cost about $350 for gas. The sad part is, I actually lost three Facebook friends over this. Some of the things that were said about me and Tami were extremely hurtful, but such is life.  Out of four hundred Facebook friends, I had one person answer my call and I will be forever grateful to her; plus I will give her a full accounting of her gift.

For the past couple of years, I’ve been searching for a way to help those in need. Yet it seems that I’m always the one who comes up short. I’m the one who needs something. But not anymore, thanks to my sister. A sister, I might add, whom I haven’t talked to in years; a sister I thought I would never have the chance to talk to again; a sister who showed me it was time to put certain things behind us and move forward. A sister to whom I will be eternally grateful. There is more to this story, but I will save it for another time.

Anyway, thanks to my sister, I am now in a position to help others, not by much, but when you have nothing, anything and everything can and does help. I have always had a penchant for helping women, and after witnessing what women living on the streets or facing homelessness go through each and every day while staying at Casa Esperanza homeless shelter, it is even stronger.

My search for a way to help has at times been . Who do I help and how?  And I would hear things like ‘Don’t give money to the homeless, give it to the shelter or other organizations.’ Personally, I never really bought into this philosophy. I know there is a reason behind it, and it’s probably a sound one. But my money is limited, and I am impatient. I like to see results instantly instead of having my dollar trickle down to a few cents by the time it reaches those in need. I know… administration costs, salaries, overhead, utilities, etc. Still, I want my dollar to go directly to those who need it most.

The other day, on Facebook no less, someone posted a quote by Mother Teresa, “Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest you.”

Reading this quote was like turning on light. I began to think, and in thinking I began to remember all the people I have as friends on Facebook (as well as in other places) who actually practice this. Truthfully, I never realized just how many until I read this quote. I asked myself, “Why can’t I do this?”  I could not think of a reason. Well, at least I couldn’t think of a good reason why.

I have helped people before, and in many different ways, but mostly for personal reasons and not just “because.”

Well my friends, Just Because became effective on October 25th, 2012, and I would like to see it continue. I have financially helped two people in the past few days for no other reason than because. They had a need, they posted their need, and I did what I could. It may not have been the amount they required, or wished for, but you’d be surprised how far a dollar will go when someone doesn’t have a single one.

I know that when I received the dollars sent from those who chose to help me, they became the most precious dollars ever. Also, dollars, even loose change, can add up quickly when more people get involved.

I am not sure if my mission will last, but I hope it will. I already have someone new  on my wish list,  my “Wish To Help List.” She is 28 and pregnant. She goes to technical school and is homeless, sleeping in her pick-up. She’s also in between jobs. I’m not quite sure how she caught my attention, but she did.

I recently came across the following quote. I ‘ve heard versions of this for years, and am a firm believer in it. I just wish I knew who said it.  “People come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. When you know which one it is, you will know what to do for that person”.

If you have any advice on how to further my endeavors, or would like to be a part of my new mission, feel free to contact me via this blog, or at the email address posted above.

Thank You,

Raymond Trower






City Approves Mega Homeless Agency

By Emerson Malone

Last Tuesday, October 23rd, the City of Santa Barbara approved the merging of the three largest agencies that serve the homeless in Santa Barbara County. The vote was 5-2, with Grant House and Cathy Murillo opposing.

Bringing Our Community Home, Common Ground Santa Barbara and the South Coast Homeless Advisory Committee are now the The Central Coast Collaborative on Homelessness or C3H. The merger was already approved by the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors, but the City of Santa Maria and Carpinteria have yet to vote on the collaborative.

The effort to bring these organizations together has been in the works for the better part of a year.

“I’m really hoping that we can coordinate a better countywide response to homelessness,” said lawyer Emily Allen, who sits on the H3C’s Coordinating Council, was a member of the South Coast Homeless Advisory Committee, and does pro bono legal advocacy homeless persons in Restorative Court. “We’re going to be working on this issue in a more effective way,” Allen said.

Before the vote, Councilmember Dale Francisco asked for a change to the collaborative’s vision statement and Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). After back and forth among Councilmembers, he got his wish; the  statement now include phrasing that states C3H will “[promote] a more efficient use of resources to reduce homelessness, and meet the needs of the most vulnerable and the needs of the community.” It’s that last phrase “and the needs of the community” that Francisco pressed for. Some homeless advocates say including this isn’t necessary because the vulnerable are already part of the community. Others say, Francisco is part of a contingent of residents and business owners who want the city to pay for either a security guard or more police patrol of lower Milpas area.

“There are people in the community, in particular some of the business owners, who are calling for the city to contrbute more resources to safety patrol,” said Councilmember Murillo. “It’s worthwhile to look at the budget, but I;m hoping that a level of security an comfort can be achieved through volunteer patrols.”

Both Murillo said she voted against the collaborative because she thought Francisco was choosing the wrong forum in which to address changes to the collaborative’s mission statement and MOU. She said, such a change should be taken up at the Policy Council level.

Francisco, along with Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider, will represent the city on H3C’s Policy Council. Forth District Supervisor Doreen Farr and Fifth District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino will also sit on the Policy Council. Members are being appointed by seniority, according to reports.

The H3C’s large Coordinating Council is already holding monthly meetings, which are closed. Its membership consists of city and county department heads, as well as advocates from nonprofit advocacy boards and volunteers. Jeff Shaffer, of Common Ground Santa Barbara and the Ufizzi Mission Project, and Angela Antenori, will share the so-called “air-traffic controller,” position, acting serving as the liaisons between the Policy Council and Coordinating Council. Northern Santa Barbara County United Way is the fiduciary agent for the new collaborative. Each jurisdiction is expected to pitch in to help support the effort; already, $250,000 has been raised, $75,000 of which came from the City of Santa Barbara’s coffers.