Bill Shea

For two years, Bill Shea lived on the property of Christ the King Episcopal Church. As homeless camps go, it was average. He slept in a field, in a decent bag, and with the blessing of the church¹s rector. He did not have the long arm of law enforcement to worry about at least. Plus, with a flow of Christians in and out, there was little risk of going hungry. He was surviving — if nothing else.

But then his survival came into question, too. In August, Shea noticed he was winded after even small amounts of exertion. Thinking it would pass, he dismissed it. By mid September, taking just a few steps had become a challenge, so he got some church friends to drive him to Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital (GVCH).

In the hospital, doctors discovered he had atrial fibrillation and congestive heart failure. He stayed there for six days; when discharge day came, he was released to WillBridge of Santa Barbara.

Unlike William Richardson and Mary Manning, two other homeless people I tracked after they were discharged from Cottage Hospital, Shea¹s discharge was smooth as silk. Discharge planners were in touch with Nick Ferrera, the program manager at WillBridge, a small residence for homeless mentally ill people that also takes in homeless hospital patients. Ferrera knew all about Shea, his illness, and the day he would be released. That day was Tuesday, September 12, and he invited me to come along. To read more, go to


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