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.