Settling in on the bench, hoping for better days!

Heather Hansen, home on a bench in front of a decorated old Victorian home!

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Homeless before during and after the holidays!

While the country tries to recover from immeasurable tragedy in a small New England town, troubles of a greater magnitude prevail! Those who perished at the hands of a lone deranged shooter, are presumably resting in peace now! While they rest in peace, thousands upon thousands continue to suffer in unimaginable ways. The town of Newtown, Connecuit are currently in the midst of burying 20 children all aged 5 to 6. Six staff members of the Sandy Hook Elementary school also were killed. The twenty year old shooter is also among the dead, at his own hand. His 52 year old mother, was murdered by the shooter in the home they shared before he went on to his deadly rampage only a few miles from his family home.

In the days since the December 14th masacure, make shift memorials have sprung up in the center of Newtown. There are hundreds of colorful teddy bears, toys, candles, cards, flowers, Christmas trees, and wreaths. These items have been sent to Newtown from well wishers from around the world. The estimated cost of these items are staggering. Meanwhile across the country on a crisp morning in Southern California, 48 year old Heather Hansen sits on a bench on a quiet street lined with old Victorian homes, some over a hundred years old. This area in the Ventura County city of Oxnard, has been desginated as a historical district. Every December the street, that Hansen is on, is temprarlly renamed 'Christmas Tree Lane'. The large Victorian homes are beautifully decorated for the holiday season, and people come from all over Southern California and beyond to marvel at the spectaclar sights. Hansen, who appears to be decades older then her 48 years, has been homeless for the last ten years she says.

She is like many homeless people to the surprise of many, she has a monthly check, that she gets from Social Security in the amount of $825, for her established diagnosed mental illnesses. With the high rents in Southern California and insufficient amounts of affordable housing, it leaves many without housing and other necessary life sustaining resources. Hansen says she is grateful that a cold weather shelter has opened around the corner, so she can stay off the streets at night. However she warns that it is unsafe there, she said she has been stabbed, and some of her meager belongings have been stolen while resting on an air mattress. Hansen has tried many times and for years to get housing, to no avail, she feels in her words, 'the system has failed me, and left me out to dry. No one cares if I live or die'. She did muster 'Merry Christmas'. She is one of thousands and thousands in the United States that have chronic mental health issues, receive some sort of monthly income and still do not have enough money to secure housing.

Here is a novel idea, perhaps all of those teddy bears, and expensive wreaths and Christmas trees sitting on the ground in Newtown, can be converted to cash to help pay for the security deposits for housing that people must have in order to get off the streets? Nah, that will never happen, lining the streets with Christmas trees and candles for those that have died through senseless violence, is far more important then the needless suffering of those alive now.

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