■ Rusty Strait / Senior Reporter
Hemet City Councilwoman Karlee Meyer opened the Feb. 11 “Coffee with Karlee” rap session at Destination Coffee Bar & Bistro with, “I don’t want this to be about me; I want to be the listener today.”
What an understatement. From the git go she listened…and listened… as people rambled on, interrupting and talking over each other. There were complaints about everything from the animal shelters to the cost of water, which devoured almost an hour of her valuable time. One woman offered a very funny break in the monotony when she complained that she was paying for water in two toilets when she lived alone and used only one! But mostly there was a lot of cacophony about the unfairness of water bills and numerous other charges imposed on the city’s voters. The Councilwoman assured her audience that money is not being wasted.
“One of our wells is being worked on and some pipes need to be replaced,” she proffered, but she had no real answer for the group. “I promise you I will look into it and get back to you and will do whatever I can to resolve the problem.”
Undoubtedly she will never be able to give full satisfaction to some of the complainers, but she seems hell-bent on giving it a journeyman’s try.
Seeming a little exasperated with some of the babbling dialogue, she offered a real solution. “If you people want real action, you should be smart when you vote.”
When she could get a word in edgewise, Meyer discussed improvements in the treatment of animals at both the county and Ramona animal shelters in the valley.
Karlee never gained true control of the meeting until she broached the subject of homelessness, a subject on which she is well informed. She really puts her shoulder to the wheel and makes an effort, especially around Weston Park in downtown Hemet.
“There are any number of organizations that need volunteers with the homeless as well as other problems that need addressing. If you can’t find them, call my office and I’ll give you a list, and you can choose for yourself which one interests you, but you must get involved if you want change.
“We’re putting together an educational seminar in late April or early May at Hemet Christian Assembly, located next to Weston Park. The object is to work with the homeless to get them involved in their own welfare, to give them a sense of belonging. Actually,” she says, “we need to find who is and who isn’t homeless in the park. People say that the park is littered with homeless and that just isn’t true.”
She allows that there are only “a handful” of true homeless persons in Weston Park.
“I hang out there because I’m trying to find a solution and be of some help. Let me tell you about something really disturbing. There is a 20-year-old gal and I found her a place to stay, but she isn’t interested.”
Meyer says as long as somebody is giving them a handout in the form of a shelter away from the street, however temporary, many of them will turn down real assistance.
“I do not fall for the ‘will you give me a quarter,’ thing. No. I want to talk to them. I’m excited about engaging them in a manner that makes them recover some of their self-respect. For instance several asked me to bring paint for them to cover up graffiti. I brought the paint and they were happy to be doing something constructive in their lives. You have to make them feel like somebody. These are not bad people–they are down on their luck for the most part and if you push them farther down you are doing both them and yourselves a disservice.
“We are instigating a roundtable in Weston Park where we can become involved with games, checkers, and activities that these folks can engage in that make them feel good about themselves for the first time, for some, in quite a while.”
Meyer certainly cares about the folks who are on the streets, for whatever reason. Sometimes it is deliberate but mostly circumstances have interrupted these folks’ lives.
“They are not druggies. The minute we start doing something productive together the drug users leave the park. If you can engage–you will change the atmosphere to a healthier one and we all are better because of it,” she said.
The one thing missing in “Coffee with Karlee” is not coffee–it’s organization and time limits on commentary by the participants so that everyone has a chance to be heard and his or her concerns addressed by the Councilwoman. Perhaps Meyer may consider limiting the time for speakers as they do at City Council meetings.
The next Coffee with Karlee meeting will be at Downtown Deli & Coffee Company March 11 at 9 a.m.