One might believe that, in a nation as great as America, every citizen would have a place to live, a roof over their heads and somewhere safe to sleep at night. Not so much.

The situation can be especially bad for veterans among this country’s homeless population. At last count, there were somewhere between 40,000 and 70,000 homeless veterans. Getting an exact count is unlikely, because when someone well-dressed and carrying a clipboard approaches a homeless encampment, the population of that camp magically shrinks — fast.

Nearly 10 percent of U.S. veterans are women, which means about 2 million women nationwide, and about 10 percent of that group is homeless. And here’s the capper — the percentage of homeless women veterans is increasing much more than in the male veterans population.

Not exactly the kind of statistics one would hope for from a global superpower whose citizens place so much emphasis on and trust in military service. But it is what is is.

Thankfully, some North County folks are working on a solution to the women-veteran homelessness problem.

An Orcutt home will house homeless women veterans, thanks to the work of a nonprofit, Operation WEBS, which was founded one year ago to help women transition to civilian life after leaving the military.

WEBS stands for Women Empowered Build Strong, and the organization recently celebrated the opening of its women veterans stability home with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Since April, two formerly-homeless veterans have called the four-bedroom house their home.

The Orcutt facility is just the first phase in a multi-year project to develop a full-fledged organization that will support women veterans, helping them to rebuild their lives after leaving military service.

As most every veteran knows, the military offers a controlled environment that gives service men and women a sense of security. But once their service is completed, that protective umbrella disappears. It can be a harsh adjustment for so many.

Bunches of roses, of all colors and varieties, to the WEBS organizers for the work they have begun to make life a bit easier for those who answer the call to duty. And these kinds of programs that extend far beyond the one or two days a year veterans are honored is the real American spirit at work.


You hear or read the word “succulent” and, at first, you think it might be something lurking in a bad horror movie. In fact, succulent, as it relates to the plant world, is top-notch.

Which is why so many folks showed up at the Santa Maria Public Library a couple of weekends ago for the library’s 3rd Annual Succulent Exchange.

Succulents are drought-resistant plants. In fact, if you give them too much water they react by starting to wilt. Or as one exchange participant said, “They thrive on neglect.”

Succulents also can be grown by simply cutting off a branch or a leaf and sticking it into soil. The plant takes care of the rest.

But the beauty of the Succulent Exchange event is not just the easy-to-grow plants. The Saturday morning event drew a big crowd, which is yet another way a strong community stays connected, with people meeting people, and sharing.

The Succulent Exchange is the brain-child of Gillian Speicher and Selena Fierro, both librarians at the Santa Maria Public Library, because “we just love succulents and we know the community loves succulents,” Speicher said.

Roses to two thoughtful librarians, and to everyone who puts together such opportunities to bring our communities closer together.

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