I knew this would be the day thanks to Amazon’s tracking devices. While meeting with my writer’s group, I kept my phone next to me, in silent mode, glancing at the tiny screen with each vibration, stalking the texts. “Your package has left the facility.” A while later, “Your package is out for delivery.” And then, “Your package is two stops away.” I tried to listen to everyone read but the distractions kept coming. Buzz, buzz, buzz.
I would be a useless critique today, my head following the path of the Amazon delivery truck, but I tried to be a good listener. The phone was silent for a bit. I looked back at the last message. Two stops. They should have delivered it by now. Maybe they got lost. Maybe they lied.
It was my turn to read. “I didn’t bring anything,” I apologized. “You see, I thought I would have my proof copies to share.” I held up my phone. “They’re two stops away.” I used my allotted time to talk about keywords, back of the book blurbs and the benefits of self-publishing.
Buzzzzzz. I looked down at the phone. “Delivered.” Suddenly it was real. I could run home, rip open the box, and hold the proof of my efforts. And so I did.
I ran my fingers across the shiny cover. I flipped to the back side, read the blurb. It needs some editing. I checked the interior. It needs some editing. My job is not done. But even scarier, as I hold this piece of work in my hands, I think, is this something I truly want to release out into the world?
Seven months ago there was another billboard on this corner. You might remember my Chase rant. Soon after my post, the offensive advertisement, “home ownership within reach in Oakland?,” was removed.
I see this corner every week when I take the 27th Street exit on my way to church. Each week the homeless camp spreads further out in all directions, new tents, more shopping carts, more hungry people, more debris. Does it make sense now to advertise that “Marijuana has arrived?” What’s next? Could we plant a different seed? Maybe just one mustard seed of hope?
After a month long break from blogging and church, I have returned. Pulling off the Grove Shafter freeway at 27th street in Oakland on the way to church, I was pleased to see that the Chase billboard has been replaced but it was disheartening to see the growth of the homeless camp. I missed the camp photo op so I guess I’ll have to come up with a 1,000 word blog post to describe the area. Just kidding.
But, I do have a couple of observations. Judging by the content of debris that oozes its way into the streets under the freeway, I suspect not all of the mess is the work of the homeless. It’s unlikely that car-less pedestrians with shopping carts are capable of hauling eight foot sofas and heavy appliances to the area. Someone is dumping their crap in the street at the expense of the homeless. What are these thoughtless trash dumpers thinking? Do they think their are providing comfortable beds for the homeless.? Do they think the homeless can tweak the appliance innards into working machines? Or perhaps they consider the shell of their old refrigerator to be a “tiny house.” More likely, they don’t want to pay the fees to dump legally. The issue becomes more complicated for the life of the homeless when the city comes by and blames them for the mess.
Meanwhile, under the freeway, off the street, there is a huge empty lot, surrounded by barbed wire topped fencing. Perhaps it would be possible to open the gates and allow this community to migrate over there? Lend them the area and responsibility to live their lifestyle without the burden of everyone else’s garbage. Add to their dignity with a couple of portables (yes, I mentioned before that there are problems with that). But how about this? Give them some maintenance responsibility and if successful provide this reward: Japanese shower.
Okay, enough of a rant. The photo above most likely has nothing to do with homeless. It’s about a dozen blocks away from the camp. I just thought it was an interesting piece of art. Or is it graffiti?
Thank you so much, Chase. It is remarkable that you had the insensitivity to post this billboard on the edge of a homeless camp. Are you really putting “home ownership within reach in Oakland?”
I see this camp each Sunday as I pull off the freeway on the way to church. I see the tents move from one block to another and then back again whenever the powers that be sweep the area. Yes, I agree the streets need to be cleaned up. But pushing the camps down the street is only a band aid on the problem. Maybe supplying portable restrooms would help. No wait – that was tried and didn’t work. How about dumpsters on each end? No wait – that was tried and didn’t work either.
The bottom line is you need to treat the cause not the outcome. “Oh but there are shelters for those people,” some say. Yes, there are shelters and they are full. But they are full of people who may have lost their jobs or couldn’t keep up with increasing rents. People who are able to give up their pets for a cot, never take a drink and work hard for a better life. Perhaps they will recall this billboard and approach Chase for that help that is offered.
And then there are the rest. It’s no secret that my son is one of them. Not in this neighborhood but one similar. He lives this lifestyle because of choices he made in his life. His opportunities are limited by the history of his actions – no one wants to rent to someone who can’t respect their property. Notice I said “can’t” and not “won’t.” Whatever the story behind this scene, no matter what kind of help is offered, some people simply cannot live the way we think they should.
Whether it be drugs or mental instability, herein lies the problem. Many think these people should live the way we want them to live. They just need to quit doing drugs, go to rehab and get a job. It’s not so simple. I’ve mothered an addicted son. For thirty years I’ve watched him repeatedly spiral down, detox, get a job, and lose the job. All the compassion in the world won’t bring back that little boy who broke my heart. I wait, pray and hope for him to emerge from his soggy tent to tread a new path. I also know, it is in his time – not mine.
Every Sunday I leave my comfortable home on the other side of the tunnel and enter this abyss of destruction. Is there a solution? Oh, how I wish. Meanwhile – Chase, you could do a lot better with your funds than to put up the slap in the face billboards in this neighborhood.