A Petaluma Homeless Christmas Carol…2010 (Another Redux)

I fully intended that last year’s post on this subject (Click Here) would be my last. 

However, while riding through Lucchesi this Christmas Eve morning, I noted someone sleeping next to the Community Center…

This scene persuaded me to break my vow and to check out the now (in)famous Homeless Christmas Carol location on Lynch Creek Trail.  As I approached the bridge, I noticed that the tree was once again decorated, although not as gaily as in past years. In fact, it was a fairly sad looking tree…

One ornament was particularly poignant…


Petaluma’s State Of The Union–Part II


Petaluma’s State Of The Union–Part I invited a discussion about how we are dealing with the changes being forced on us due to the general state of economic affairs in our fair city:

…the (current) economic malaise is not unique to Petaluma. It is playing out across the nation and some areas of the country are more severely affected than here.

Overall, I suspect that we are, to borrow a phrase from Bill Gross of Pimco, seeking a “new normal” economically. This journey to the “new normal” will take many months, if not years.

So how do we cope locally?

This article reflects some of the discussions generated by Part I.


I do agree we are all on a journey to a “new normal,” although at this point it is far from clear at what level the economy will stabilize.  Everything that we as individuals, businesses and government at all levels have come to treat as business as usual needs to be reexamined in light of the new realities, including the uncertainty around things once thought to be more stable than they are. –A Reader

Neighborhoods & Public Spaces (Streets & Parks)

The current recession has adversely affected the City’s ability to stay even with deteriorating streets, park maintenance, broken streetlights and neighborhood blight.  In my experience, these are the most common daily “complaints” registered with me or expressed on the various forums on Petaluma 360.

Frankly, I don’t expect things to get better for quite some time.  We will be doing “good” if they don’t get any worse. 

Notwithstanding, even though operating with a severely limited budget, the City could do a better job of communicating as to what can be done and what can’t be done…or when it can be done.

Why is it so hard to find out what is going on? Why is everything a big secret?–A reader

The City Website is the perfect place to create a public advisory newsletter with a cross link from Petaluma 360 if they would agree to do so.

Such a newsletter could and should

  • Advise where and how to report concerns or complaints as well as provide telephone numbers, links to online complaint forms, and e-mail contacts.
  • Advise and assure the public that their code violation complaints are confidential under state law.
  • Educate people on what is or is not the City’s responsibility with respect to maintenance questions, neighborhood preservation questions, and code enforcement issues.

Granted, much of this information is available throughout the web site. However, it is widely scattered and difficult to find.  It needs to be brought to one place on the Home Page with few cross-links to other parts of the site. It has been my experience that if people are required to go more than two clicks to get to information, you are going to lose them.  


  • If the public is not encouraged to communicate and to report, there can be no response or action.
  • While there may not be money or staffing available at present to deal with a problem such as a broken street lamp, a pothole, or an alleged code violation, it is better to have it reported and recorded for attention at a later date. 
  • In many instances there will have to be an express understanding that a response or corrective action may be delayed. 

Sales Tax Revenue

Much ink and newsprint has been expended (not to mention the angst displayed in the local blogosphere) about Petaluma’s need for more retail.

I am not about to delve into the passionate debates/discussions about “retail leakage” or the elements of the big-box vs. local store argument. I do note that the driving force is the crazy California financial and tax structure causing sales tax revenue to be, as one reader put it,  “…disproportionately important for local government.”

One solution is to attempt to add a new local sales tax. From Cotati, a reader reports:   “We’ll put a 1/2 cent sales tax on the ballot in April. All revenue stays in Cotati!”

  • Granted this is one way to generate some revenue for your city.
  • However, it is going to be a tough sell in Cotati. A few days ago, I noticed a car parked on a street holding up a sign that almost eclipsed the car from view–(“STOP THE TAXES”) 

A sales tax proposal for Petaluma has no chance. It would be political suicide.

Another solution is retail development. The “debate” in Petaluma over the nature and extent of the Regency Project (Target) will eventually be resolved through the planning process and the City Council. 

Regardless of the outcome, I still have the feeling that the arguments on either side are not taking account of what I perceive to be a changing retail environment–More and more retail shopping is online. For another take on the future shape of retailing see Impassioned Petaluma City Council Votes Yes on Contentious Development by Frances Rivetti.

Yes, we need to find ways to generate more sales tax revenue in Petaluma and Regency may be a part of the answer.  Nevertheless, sales tax revenue alone is not going to be the solution to the City’s budget woes.

As one reader put it “…ultimately the focus has to be on attracting businesses to locate and grow here that provide head-of-household jobs.  Those are the kinds of jobs that allow people to live in this community and patronize our shops and restaurants.  In order to attract these kinds of businesses to come here, we need solid public services — good streets, parks, utilities, police, fire, schools — the entire range. And right now, with public services in a downward spiral, we don’t have a very compelling story.”

Quite a challenge if you think about it…

What Can We Do?


To borrow from Suzanne Maggio-Hucek 

Don’t just stand there

Making the transition to a “new normal” is never easy.  At the individual level, writing letters, volunteering, and staying informed are all activities that contribute to our social and community infrastructure.

In addition, a little personal reflection may help us to put some of the perceived wrongs and passions of the moment into perspective…

It’s funny what happens when we change our perspective. Step back. Switch it up a bit. Things change when we take the time to see something in a different way.

Take the time to change your view.

Change your view  Suzanne Maggio-Hucek 

Perhaps then we may be able to see the rainbow more clearly… and eventually blue skies…


A Petaluma Christmas Carol…2009–Revisited

In A Petaluma Christmas Carol…2009 (December 6, 2009) I reported as follows:

In 2007, the day after Christmas, I posted “A Petaluma Christmas Carol” on Petaluma 360. That article was based on a homeless camp that included Christmas decorations and a Christmas Tree.

I visited the location in December 2008 and there was no camp. Therefore, I reposted the article in its original form.

As part of the review process for this year, I returned to the site on December 3. A homeless camp similar to the one in 2007 had once again been established. This time it included a household pet with feeding dishes…

At the time I published the 2009 Christmas Carol, there was no Christmas Tree.  However….

I happened to be passing by the location early on December 19, 2009 and noticed that the camp was still in place.  This time, however, I also noted that the Christmas tree has once again been established. While not as elaborate as the 2007 tree, it is still  a testament to our times and evidence that people will honor the season in even the most difficult of circumstances…

A Petaluma Christmas Carol…2009


In 2007, the day after Christmas, I posted “A Petaluma Christmas Carol” on Petaluma 360. That article was based on a homeless camp that included Christmas decorations and a Christmas Tree.

I visited the location in December 2008 and there was no camp. Therefore, I reposted the article in its original form. 

 As part of the review process for this year, I returned to the site on December 3. A homeless camp similar to the one in 2007 had once again been established. This time it included a household pet with feeding dishes…


Not trusting myself to not go off the rails if I were to comment on this scene, I will simply allow it to speak for itself and to serve as preamble to…


A Petaluma Christmas Carol 2007-2009

None of us are immune from the possibility of ending up without a home…

…seeking assistance or shelter from the cold…

…or living outside under a Petaluma bridge…

I did not plan to revisit this subject, but events often override intentions…

December 23, 2007

As I was traveling over the bridge that was the subject of Sleepless & Homeless, I noticed that the scene had been decorated for Christmas–a Christmas Tree, Christmas Wreaths, and objects at the base of the tree. One of the objects was a copy of Better Homes & Gardens–intentional or not, the irony was glaring.

In spite of the circumstance of their situation, the creators of this Outdoor Christmas managed to demonstrate their Christmas Spirit. 

I thought of Dickens…and how little has changed since he wrote the now iconic A Christmas Carol in 1843.


‘Every idiot who goes about with Merry Christmas on his lips, should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart. He should!’…

 ‘At this festive season of the year, Mr. Scrooge,’ said the gentleman, taking up a pen, ‘it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the Poor and Destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time.’


‘Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir.’


‘At this time of the rolling year,’ the spectre said ‘I suffer most. Why did I walk through crowds of fellow-beings with my eyes down…’

 ‘If these shadows remain unaltered by the Future…’



From the foldings of its robe, it brought two children…
–‘They are Man’s,’ said the Spirit, looking down upon them. ‘And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers.  This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want.
–Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased. Deny it.’ cried the Spirit, stretching out its hand towards the city. ‘Slander those who tell it ye.  Admit it for your factious purposes, and make it worse.
 And abide the end.’

‘A Merry Christmas to us all, my dears. God bless us.’

‘God bless us every one.’ said Tiny Tim, the last of all.’


It has almost become a seasonal ritual or cliche to encourage people to make year-end charitable donations. 

Petaluma’s COTS is a remarkable organization dedicated to helping  homeless individuals and families. For additional background, see Petaluma’s Homeless Neighbors

A COTS donation in any amount will be appreciated and will be put to good use.

1. You can donate online at http://www.cots-homeless.org/ 


2. You can send a check to


P.O. Box 2744

Petaluma, CA 94953

Turkey Day!!

Thanksgiving was a busy day in household kitchens around Petaluma. Given the overwhelming public response to the plea for Turkey donations (See Petaluma Fills The COTS Turkey Gap!), I decided to slip out early to visit the staff and volunteers at the Petaluma Kitchen to see how they were doing.

At 8:30 a.m. they were more than busy–preparing to serve 180 complete turkey dinners with all the trimmings, plus pie.  COTS Food Service Coordinator, Don Louvier advised that the Mary Isaak Center was also preparing to serve 100 turkey dinners.

I managed to squeeze in and get a few photos without disturbing (I hope) their efforts…


Petaluma Fills The COTS Turkey Gap!

This is the time of the year when I go into “Holiday Mode” and more or less tune everything out.  The world, however, has its own schedule.

On November 18, I checked e-mail around 10:00 p.m. and found a message from Meloni Courtway (A Mouse in the Pantry) alerting recipients to the fact that Petaluma’s COTS (Committee on the Shelterless) was in dire need of turkey donations to fill their food boxes on Saturday, November 21. 

Meloni’s e-mail moved like a tsunami through the Internet in Petaluma. Facebook pages lit up. Petalumans were preparing to take action.

On November 19, Frances Rivetti  posted an article on her site– Trot over to the Petaluma Kitchen with a Turkey Donation Today 

And trot they did! 

  • By noon on Friday, November 20, Elizabeth Hale, Director of Food Programs for COTS reported: “Since the email request went out, we’ve received 226 turkeys and they’re still coming! Petaluma is an awesome community!”
  • John Records of COTS advised  later in the day that they received 60 additional turkeys, bringing the total donations, at that time, to 286….
  • Records commented: “The run on the stores was so profound that one of my Facebook buddies reported that the clerk at Safeway guessed why she was buying the turkey.”

But the best news came at 2:22 pm Saturday in an e-mail from Elizabeth Hale…

Whew!  What an amazing day!  We were able to supply turkeys for all 230 food boxes and send 35 turkeys to low income seniors at Vintage Chateau.

And I just heard from my manager, Judy Hess, that Sunrise Rotary has delivered another 50 turkeys with a stated goal of another 50!

We emptied our freezer this morning and it’s filling up again!  This means not only will we have plenty of turkey to serve for our Thanksgiving meals at the Kitchen and the Mary Isaak Center, we will have enough for all the families who pick up their boxes during the week.

Many, many thanks to all who took their time, money, and energy to purchase and deliver turkeys to the Kitchen for those less fortunate.  You are the heart of what makes Petaluma a special place to live. 

Happy Thanksgiving,
Elizabeth elizabethh@cots-homeless.org