Looking for a shell in the midst of a weary crisis
The construction site for the coming weeks was a high school needing renovation and new construction. The writing was already on the wall. Schools and churches were the only ones with money for new construction. The big commercial and residential projects had all faded away. I was a construction worker in his late 50s who for years had worked successfully on many major construction projects that are well known throughout Central Florida. The summer of 2008 was calm before the August storm that confirmed the financial meltdown was not just a passing incident.
The platitude that many workers are just a paycheck away from being homeless was now a possibility for me. I was struggling just to maintain my car I needed for finding work. When I lost my job in 2009 due to the continual downturn in the economy that decimated the construction industry, it wasn't long before I lost the car also.
At my age, without a car, the labor halls don't want to send you out. While I did manage to stay with friends for days at a time, or in motels when I did manage to get some temp work out of day labor halls, I eventually lost my shelter and had to go live in the woods. Finally I found myself homeless with no change in sight.
I had other skills in computer graphics, but I had not worked in that field for the 10 years I had been in Florida because, oddly enough, the wages for computer work had not paid as well as the construction work had. My clothes started to get ragged; my beard went unkempt for weeks at a time. My glasses broke, but luckily I found a pair surprisingly close to my needed prescription in a Lion's Club eyeglass box at the local library.
I was determined not to let my circumstances get me down; after all homelessness is not a crime, it is merely a condition. I got involved with social service agencies that cater to the pre-homeless, homeless and post homeless. I enjoyed helping others worse off than I was. I rarely asked for anything for myself, since I had learned how to survive on the streets a lot better than many of my fellows.
But my found glasses were getting worn and tattered and the scleral shell I wore over the remnant of my left eye needed to be replaced. A scleral shell is an ocular prosthesis that is worn over a withered but still existing eyeball. The shell fits like a large plastic contact lens covering the front surface of the remnant eye globe.
The shell never fit right and now the bacteria buildup was causing eye infections on a weekly basis. The accident to the eye in 1986 had left the globe of my eye shriveled up from a plump grape to a raisin and the shell helped shield my face from scaring people with that horrible sight. It also helped me not feel like such a freak in public.
I had learned the best way to survive homelessness is to not look homeless. I had the shell well past the 4-6 years recommended by the ocularist. My last replacement shell had cost $600 in 2000 and now the cost had risen to almost three times that amount. I had nowhere to turn. The agency that had helped me in the past no longer had the money for that kind of expenditure so it came as a great surprise when I was contacted by Ormond-by-the-Sea Lions' chapter member Mary Yochum. She found out about my plight from the networking she does in the community.
The Lion's Club would have been the last place I would have figured would be able to help me with the scleral shell. I was totally ignorant of the organization. Les Walter, another Lions Club member, was kind enough to provide me with a ride to appointments in St Augustine for examination, fitting and follow up. I got to know more of the chapter members and found a group of dedicated and hardworking individuals. I must say everyone in that chapter went way past the call of duty to produce me with a most favorable and smooth transition to the new eye. Plus, the club got me a new pair of glasses to boot!
Unlike most professional social services agencies I've come to know, the Lion's Club here is a multifaceted crew that, for the most part, does their tireless work as unsung heroes of the community. It would be worth your while to visit your local chapter meeting this month so you can find out more about this organization.
Submitted by Bobbie Cheh, Ormond-by-the-Sea Lions Club secretary
Everything is going up in price
I agree with the rant in Sept. 13th issue on "More for less" and the real meaning is it's more in the pockets of the CEOs and way less for the consumer.
Businesses ship their jobs to other countries for cheaper labor, yet charge the consumer more for their poor quality products. The majority of groceries and daily household products have gone up 5, 10 15 percent or more in the past several months for items that do not last as long.
With today's tough economy and cutbacks, this makes it much harder for people to get through their monthly budgets. Those on fixed income really must go without many things. Some stores say their sales are down, so they raise the prices. Now that seems ridiculous to me, because if I couldn't afford before, what makes them think that I can pay more for it. Prices should be set by the economy in an area based on employment, pay rates and overall population with fixed income.
Businesses do not care for the consumers or what the economy is really like, they care only for what goes into their pocket with the cheapest overhead cost. Hence, the real meaning of, more for less.
Sheila Dillon, Port Orange