Mountain Musings




As you may have read in the March 3 edition of this newspaper, the annual Point in Time count of mountain residents who are actively homeless resulted in just 34. However, according to the Mountain Homeless Coalition, this is only the proverbial tip of the iceberg, as they estimate the actual number is likely three to four times higher, or as many as 136.


Every year, there are many uncounted individuals who may be residing in vacated buildings, in their vehicles parked in turnouts, or somewhere deep within the forest.


Gabriel, a homeless man in his mid-30s whom I encountered on Lake Drive, near Knapps Cutoff during the homeless count, told me he had been living on the streets of Crestline for over four years and that he has been able to survive lately by shoveling snow from people’s driveways and from the generosity of local citizens who have given him enough spare change to by a McDonald’s burger meal.


On the other hand, some local homeless persons have been able to hitch a ride down the mountain, where they are able to find edible items in dumpsters behind fast food restaurants lining 40th Street and shelter in orange groves or alongside a railroad track, just like Willard Jefferson, a real person that Folk Rock/Americana composer and performer John Stewart immortalized in his 1972 song and album, both entitled “Willard.”


Willard, he’s a loner, living by the railway, living beside the tracks beside his home. Willard, he’s a loner, if you’re going his way say hello, he ain’t got no one to call his own. Soldiers of glass standing by the trash, Willard’s colored bottles in a line. Soldiers of glass, it’s funny you should ask, but they’re the only friends he has to pass the time.


I think what Stewart is saying is, if you should happen to encounter someone who is homeless, whether it’s their own fault or through no fault of their own, give them some consideration. Stop and chat with them. Perhaps you could give them information on where to go for help, like Operation Provider in Rimforest, Crestline Family Services in Top Town Crestline or Rim Family Services in Skyforest. They may be able to provide counseling, food, necessary toiletries, or even steer them to temporary shelter and services.


Many folks are teetering on the brink of homelessness through no fault of their own, whether it be from an illness or a recent job loss, which could result in unpaid bills and an eventual eviction. Too many people are living just one paycheck away from any of these circumstances and could land out there on the street with Willard and his colored bottles.


Soldiers of glass, its funny you should ask, but they’re the only friends he has to pass the time, and his Mamma knows that he was once a child. Mamma, she was the first one to hear his cry, and my Mamma knows that I was once a child. Could it be we’re all just Willard in disguise?


Keep it flyin’, Uncle Mott