Could you ever imagine sleeping on the gravel under a tarp, homeless? Most of us will never live on the streets, thankfully. But here’s a window into what it’s like for someone who does.

A woman posted this heartbreaking message on social media after the RV she was living in was towed by police for expired registration: “I keep looking for someone to save me but no one comes. I think maybe this is a dream (or nightmare) but I don't know for sure. I wonder why God is allowing this to happen. Thinking back and asking myself, was I really that bad? … My life has no purpose and there is no value in me. I am the lowest in the eyes of everyone, a waste of life, with no hope. I have to face it; they hate my kind. I am one of the many looked at by society as a plague to our town. The filthy and diseased, wasting air that others deserve (not us). No home, no family, and friends that act like they don't see you. No one to come look for me. If I died today, I wonder how long till they found me? I can't believe this is what I've become. I tried so hard ... I really did. God hates me. I hate me. I wish I would just die so I don't have to see tomorrow. I am scared, it is foggy and wet. The only covering I have is a small tarp. Laying on a sleeping bag by the railroad tracks. Alone and crying. I can't seem to stop. This is what the police have done to me and for what? Expired tags?”

In response, LPD Community Liaison Officer Andrew Costamagna said that the woman’s registration was expired by two years and she was given several warnings about getting it paid. When the RV was towed, the woman was “offered resources and assistance … to improve her situation and help her. On each occasion (she) stated that she was not interested in any assistance we offered or could connect her with.”

CHANGES: The Village Coffee Shop on Victor Road will soon become Mel’s Dive-In, according to Village owner Raleigh Morrow. Melissa Edwards, who previous owned Mel’s in Acampo, will manage the place and do most of the cooking. Morrow and partner Julie Jette will continue to own the restaurant, but Edwards will run it, Morrow says. Edwards closed her Acampo eatery several months ago for undisclosed reasons, and her fans have been anxious for her to relocate somewhere in Lodi. Morrow and Jette own restaurants on Lodi Avenue, Victor Road, and the recently-purchased Hillbillies Restaurant in Murphys, which will soon get its name changed to Murphys Highway 4 Diner.

COMING SOON: A new Rally's Drive-In is coming to Lodi. It will be located at the old Long John Silver's site on W. Lodi Avenue, between School and Sacramento. Rally’s is a burger chain with over 40 locations in California. Their menu includes typical fare like burgers of all sizes, chicken wings, hot dogs, fish sandwiches, fries, ice cream cones, and your favorite soft drinks. The project is in plan check with the city right now. The former fish and chips site has sat vacant for years, yearning for a new life. … The new Oxford Kitchen on Oak Street is only open for dinner right now, opening at 4:30. The place had a soft opening last week, but the manager says they plan on opening for lunch once all the staff is hired and trained.

OPENING SOON: The Lodi Library continues to suffer staff shortages. They are down one full-time and three part-time positions. The library has maintained modified hours due to COVID. However, they have tentative plans to reopen full-time in January, according to new Library Director Akiliah Manuel Mills.

ROLLIN’ IN DOUGH: In case you missed it, the city ended its fiscal year in June with, get this, a $10 million operating surplus. It’s the largest ever. We asked people what they think the money should be used for. Here are some of their answers: Mono Geralis says use it to clean up the eastside of town. “Eastside Lodi is turning into a dump site!” he claims. … Mark Weber and a host of others say to use it to reduce utility bills. “Give the citizens a break from high electric bills!” … Sheri Zapara says to fix the potholes in city streets. … Leah Suelter suggests using it for a skating rink/arcade/laser tag place. … Former councilman Randy Snider says, “Restore funding to Parks and Recreation Department.” … James Lanchester agrees, saying, “Take care of some of the deferred maintenance in our parks.” … Clare Zastrow Reynolds says, “Speed bumps on Louie Ave!” … Jim Murdaca says to use the money to open City Hall every Friday. … Elizabeth Martinez Hausauer says to repave Lodi Lake roads. “Not just patching. It's a beautiful lake with a lawsuit waiting to happen with all the potholes,” she says. … Serina Chérie says to fill the open positions in the police and fire departments. … Mike Stewart questions, “Why is it necessary to spend down a surplus?” … Debbie Livingston says the money ought to be used to pay people whose homes suffered water damage during the big storm of a few weeks ago. “Pay the people who pay the taxes for their property,” she says. … Katie Hutto says use it for “a public pool that all the swim teams can use.” … Marianne Van Gundy Ono says, “Please clean up downtown! Walking down School St. is disgusting.” … Donna Lisa thinks it should be used for “a dump that was open where you could dump anytime, with no charge but include it in the house taxes, then we could have a cleaner city. It works in Idaho.” There were many more ideas, some of which we will publish next week.

SEEING DOUBLE: With all the flurry of building activity in town, we ended up with two new streets named almost exactly the same. “Azalea Lane” is located in the Villa Fiore subdivision and “Azalea Street” is located in the nearby Gateway North subdivision. Both subdivisions are in the area south of Walmart, west of Lower Sac. To eliminate confusion, the city decided to change Azalea Lane to Violet Street. … The month of November has been declared “Sikh Awareness Month” at the request of Council Member Mikey Hothi.

FINISH LINE: Construction at three local schools is just about complete, according to Lodi Unified Chief Business Officer Leonard Kahn. Students will move into new classrooms at Lodi High when they return from Christmas break in January. The $75 million improvement project still has work to be done on replacing the pool and student locker rooms, which will cost an additional $14 million. Work at Needham School is also nearly complete. “All 12 teachers and their students were moved into the new classrooms the 3rd week of October,” he says. Twelve old portables were yanked out, and a new multipurpose room should open to students and staff in mid-February, says Kahn. The Needham price tag is about $21 million. Tokay High’s $35 million improvement project is also all but done. Twenty new classrooms were moved into within the past several days, says Kahn. The new gym is ready for use, save some “hardscape” and fencing that remains to be completed. Kahn expects the last contractor to be gone from Tokay High by mid-December. The school’s new stadium, which was completed some time ago, cost $6.7 million. Most of the money for these projects comes from the Measure U property tax initiative passed a few years ago.

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Steve is a former newspaper publisher and lifelong Lodian whose column appears most Tuesdays in the News-Sentinel. Write to Steve at aboutlodi@gmail.com.

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