Ventura resident Brian Galetto is the author of the recently published Not So Simple: Observations on Poverty and People, a book of poetry and photography that highlights homelessness and more.
Galetto teaches communication and speech at Villanova Preparatory School in Ojai and from his perspective the surge in homelessness is a people problem — a complex problem which is linked with society’s essentials such as healthcare, education and the economy. So if there are productive conversations and a reevaluation of how society is structured, maybe long-term change can develop.
Not So Simple was conceived from a need to re-examine interactions of individuals and the creation of a functional community. Galetto explained that a crisis like homelessness served as the ideal lens for his objective.
“As an East Coast guy, I was taken aback by the amount of people struggling to get by. That curiosity continued and I collected as many stories and ideas as I could to paint a picture of the people who are homeless, how the West Coast is dealing with this crisis, and how we can use language to bring all of us closer to understanding each other,” he said.
Overall, the book conveys a simple message: Everyone has a story.
Despite why one is homeless, Galetto attempts to emphasize that it is but part of an entire story that is unique to that individual and situation. With that foundation in mind, he believes that if there is a willingness to listen, one can better identify how to help one another and the community altogether.
Galetto’s story includes the desire to effect change in the community and in the classroom. Not So Simple evolved from his website, which had been launched from a lesson plan. Over the years, he has sought to relay to his students the relationship between better communication and making progress in addressing issues like homelessness.
“I think many of the misconceptions I heard, from not only students but more so adults, was that all homeless are drug addicts or lazy. People believe that a majority of them are crazy, too. The common misconception that I think hinders not only our understanding of homeless, but also of different cultures and politics, is generalizing.”
While it is homelessness and poverty that Galetto seeks to illuminate, the underlying message is intended to speak to both individuals and a society continuously faced with humanitarian crises. He hopes that the need to continually engage in listening, asking questions and seeking solutions is a take-away from Not So Simple.
“If we can all understand the role each of us play in our community, then there is a tighter bond and people are more accountable,” Galetto stated. “When we treat people as less than human, and show a lack of care for one another, that’s a dangerous world to live in. I hope people can finish reading Not So Simple and think about how they can change their community. I hope it alters how they view those living in poverty. We’re all human, and I think at times we forget that.”
Before Not So Simple, the educator was not only sharing his time and ideas on his website, but with local nonprofit organizations such as Help of Ojai and Project Understanding. Through the site, he raised over $9,000 for Thomas Fire victims. And Galetto has committed to donating all of the proceeds from Not So Simple to Project Understanding’s Homeless to Housing (H2H) program. H2H works one-on-one with homeless residents to offer a safe environment and find them housing while helping them make positive changes in their lives.
In 2017, Project Understanding had approximately 3,300 inquiries through the H2H program; 125 individuals who were homeless or close to being homeless were able to be assisted and housed. So far, Galetto has donated $2,100 to the organization.
“Every donation, whether that be a donation of time, talent or treasure, can make an impact in what we do,” explained Brandy Beesley, Project Understanding’s executive director. “Advocacy is also an important piece of the puzzle — helping to educate the community on the importance of addressing the issue of homelessness and directing our homeless neighbors to the appropriate resources and organization.”
Beesley also added that effectively confronting this issue requires a collective effort. Thus, it was encouraging that Ventura County is acknowledging the increasing number of local homeless people and, consequently, allocating more resources to meet the needs that arise.
“During the span of writing Not So Simple I’ve seen more communities realize that shuffling people around is not helping. We need more mental health facilities. We need shelters. We need people in the community to allow low-income housing buildings in their community. We need more affordable housing. What the county does to help the homeless epidemic in the next few years will have ramifications for decades. I hope for all of us, our solutions work,” Galetto noted.
Not So Simple: Observations on Poverty and People is now available at local bookstores. All proceeds go to Project Understanding. For more information, visit www.HappyFridayEveryDay.com. For more information on H2H, visit www.projectunderstanding.org.