Peanut butter, macaroni and tuna--not exactly the stuff of a Thanksgiving Day meal.
But it is the typical staple for people without kitchens, without homes. The people staying at the Christian Temporary Housing Facilities shelter in Orange know all about it. They've been there.
So on Thursday, in a twist on the traditional Thanksgiving Day haves-give-to-the-have-nots, the families living at the temporary shelter prepared more than just a meal for themselves. They were stacking turkey sandwiches and holiday fixings on cardboard trays to take to other homeless people who may be too proud to wait in line at soup kitchens or seek a free turkey dinner.
"I hate to see anybody go hungry--because we have," explained Betty Crabtree, 41, who has lived at the shelter in Orange with her husband, Ferris, 42, and her 15-year-old daughter, Jeannie, for a month.
Members of the seven families living at the shelter prepared 90 turkey sandwiches and wrapped them individually in foil. For good measure, they tossed in some more traditional Thanksgiving Day fare--pumpkin pie.
Michael Elias, executive director of the shelter, took the food Thursday afternoon to parks, like Featherly Regional Park at the northeastern edge of the county, and distributed it to people who live there--some out of cars, others under trees.
He said he chose to distribute the food at the parks because there "are the people who are too proud to come to the shelters" or the many soup lines and churches that served up free turkey dinners Thursday.
"This is a very painful time for the homeless," Elias said.
Leilani Rochon, 36, remembered spending two weeks in Featherly Park once. Campers are allowed to stay a maximum of two weeks at $5 per car per night. Since it is cheaper than motel rates, recreational campers usually find themselves sharing the several regional parks, where overnight camping is allowed, with the many homeless people, Rochon said.
"To cook up there is very hard. They make mostly soup," Rochon recalled. "And we ate a lot of tuna."
"And peanut butter," chimed in Jeannie Crabtree.
"Tuna, peanut butter, jelly and macaroni" are a common diet for those without a roof over their heads and much money in their pockets, the teen-ager explained.
Originally from Kentucky, the Crabtree family arrived in California recently with about $20, Betty Crabtree said. Her husband, who does body work on cars, had many of his tools stolen. And the family had to pawn the rest of his tools. Now, Ferris Crabtree is working part time fixing cars, but he said he is always on the lookout for steadier income.
Rochon, her husband and two young daughters have lived at the shelter for about a month, after spending 15 months living out of a car, traveling and working from south Florida to California. Both she and her husband, who works as a guard, are studying to be travel agents.
Just when the Rochons were starting to get back on their feet, harder times hit. Rochon lost her job as a receptionist in a Huntington Beach YMCA last week because she could not get to work after the family car was stolen.
Currently, 12 adults and 15 children are sharing the family shelter in Orange. But the maximum stay at Christian Temporary Housing is two months for each family. In three weeks, the Rochon family will have to find somewhere else to live.
Asked where they planned to go next, Rochon shrugged and said, "We don't know."
The families at the shelter said Thursday that they were grateful for the help they have received and were eager to do something for others--especially on Thanksgiving Day. But there was only so much to be shared Thursday afternoon.
A little boy knocked on the door of the Orange home Thursday afternoon. Shyly, he asked if they were opening the home to strangers for a Thanksgiving Day meal.
The families at the shelter had pooled their food for the occasion and there wasn't that much to go around. But certainly there was enough for one or two more people--maybe three, they told him.
But the little boy said his group contained eight or nine people. Quietly, with a sad look on her face, Rochon shook her head no, and the little boy walked away.