A few months back, I offered to lay off of the criticism if I saw positive steps taken to address the housing crisis in Southern Humboldt. I offered bonus points if it happened before annual influx of trimmigrants. It didn’t. 2016 was a brutal year for people out on the streets in Southern Humboldt. Several people died in makeshift encampments last year, under suspicious circumstances, and a few elderly homeless people were badly beaten on the streets of Garberville over this past Summer and Fall. However, now that winter weather has arrived, Peg Anderson and Yashi Hoffman have organized a severe weather shelter for people with nowhere warm to be on the coldest nights of the year.

Peg and Yashi brought together a coalition of people who care, including the Presbyterian Church in Garberville, the Baptist Church in Redway, David Ordonez (a big-hearted guy I know from the SHARC club), and I don’t know how many other volunteers to make it happen. Separately, none of them could do it all, but when Peg and Yashi got them all together, they were able to make it happen. Without them, we would have no emergency shelter at all in Southern Humboldt.

They had to start from scratch, since the Veterans Hall, SoHum’s traditional severe weather shelter, is out of commission due to mold, and Paul Encimer, the guy who organized the shelter at the Veteran’s Hall for many years, was just evicted himself, from his bookstore at the north end of Garberville. Peg and Yashi bring an entirely different energy to the situation that people can feel in their hearts and in their stomachs. Peg and Yashi have literally fed this community for two generations, through Chautauqua, the natural foods grocery store they ran, until recently turning it over to the next generation.

Peg and Yashi have certainly earned whatever leisure time their semi-retirement allows them, and no one forced them to step up to the plate here. In fact, I’ll bet a lot of people discouraged them from even trying, but they decided to do it anyway, and they did it together. That’s cool. Actually, that’s love, but love is cool with me, and a lot of people are feeling that love on these cold nights, like we’ve had over the past week or so. Be sure to thank Peg and Yashi for that, and for any heart-warming feelings you get from this uncharacteristically positive post.

I also want to mention a very charming group of young people, including Jasmine Rene Stafslein, Shakti and their friends, who prepared care packages for people on the street, and distributed them over the holidays. That was a very thoughtful gesture, that I’m sure was very much appreciated. They made the effort to wear bright colors and to be friendly and cheerful as well. I think that’s really love too. Shakti even invited me to join them.

I hate to see my friends struggle so hard to survive, and I help when I can, but I’m much more interested in punishing the middle-class for their smug, indifference, their hostility towards the poor, and their greed. That’s where the juice is. We’ll run out of planet long before I run out of material on that front, which is why the work I do here matters. The middle-class must be stopped.

Too many heart-warming stories like this, about good people helping one another would kill this column and undermine what I’m trying to do here. When middle-class people start treating poor and working-class people like human beings, they make my job as a social critic more difficult, and less necessary. It’s simple really. My criticisms only sting because they are true. The less true you make them, the less they sting. The less they sting, the less anyone notices, and the sooner I have to find something else to write about.

On the other hand, people need to see an example of what good people are like once in a while. So here you have a couple. Do you want to see more? If you, or someone you know, is doing something to bring this community together, to make it more livable for working people, and more survivable for the poor and vulnerable, let me know, and I’ll write about it.

Go ahead. Try to put me out of work. Just be forewarned that stuff you do to help your own kids doesn’t count. They’re your responsibility anyway. Also, stuff you do that protects, or raises your property values, doesn’t count either. I don’t want to hear about your parks or your schools or your goddamn hospital. I only want to hear about things that people do, out of the kindness of their hearts, to make life easier, and better for the people who have it the hardest in this community. In the meantime, I have plenty else to write about in 2017. 


John Hardin writes at Like You’ve Got Something Better to Do.