I know I am remiss in a report..It’s coming. I’m behind. But my Internship advisor asked for a needs lisyt via Amazon for simple supplies like UUB lights and batteries – a hoodie or two (we need on in XL and one XXXL right now ( I have one).
Art Tent project is slow but that is because LOTS OF POLITICVS going on!! And I am just one guy, Also – after 18 months of living in simple peace, the camp itself is a real stress on me I had not reallyu fiully counted on – say – 20%. Most of it NOISE!!!!!! It is deafening ALL THE TIME
Anyway..here is the Amazon wish list. Send all supplies to 161 Lexington Ave Apt E El Cerrito, CA 94530 OR the Oak Life Church office in Oakland.
Our camp is in one of the most public in all of Oakland – entering the Webster Tube at the corner of 6th and Webster where we get probably 10k of eyeballs a day minimum and it fluctuates between bumper to bumper traffic moving at 2 mph to drag-racing Muscle cars blazing towards the lighted tube mouth in speeds of excess of 100 mph at 3 a.m. The noise is truly deafening at all hours, but the most maddening is the mid-day L O N G angry honks as drivers jostle to angrily merge lanes towards the tube – each demanding themselves of supreme importance and laying heavy on the horn section as if to obliterate the offender with a laser blast.
Having to move every other week (all your stuff off the pad…then waiting and then moving back on) encourages a Zen attitude of “less is more” simplicity and that makes me happy personally. In my tent I have six small modular milk crates that are 1x1x1 foot and stackable; two Asian wooden shipping crates sideways for my clothes that serve as a dresser; a partiable toilet in case there is ever an emergency or I get sick (one of my crates has an assortment of plastic bags, tape, baggies, trash bags, room deodorant, antibacterial dishsoap and the like); a tall trash can (uses plastic bags from Smart and Final); a small wooden table that sits on top of the least need two crates (which have th Med kit, backup shaving & toiletries, candles and mailing supplies); a large deep sealable Tupperware Countaiuner for all foodstuff so not even oder escape to attract insects or rodants. No food is ever “out”; a series of climbers “hooks” around the room to hang various bags, USB rechargeable lights, my Han Solo vest when I am home (which carries half my life in its pockets; a small cool orange steel chair for staging; the cot ( a godsend both for my back and also because it is great seating/staging and you get storage underneath. Airbeds are a mistake.
I have good headphones and a USB Bluetooth single speak boombox about the size of a baseball for live in-tent music. Of course I have my Captain America battery back-up – always with me for all needs (in the video it is plugged into the light as that ran out of power!
So in the evening? Movies, or lately Season 5 of House of Cards (which is like a three legged dog…you just cannot look away but you should. Or music. All I need is around me. The best thing? I KNOW exactly where EVERYTHING is.
Well my first night back in camp was notable…fire in the old camp, possibly an arson attack. Here is the video report.
Almost a year ago exactly I wrote an article here about Oakland attacking the homeless camps. In a dramatic reversal they have decided to actually LEAD with a visionary new plan. It is covered well here by the San Francisco Chronicle:
My Church (Oak Life Church) just took an offering on Sunday for the camp I used to be a part of. The tiny congregation, which takes one whole week’s offerings a month and simply gives it away to a needy cause or organization (take a look at that!) raised almost $300 for my buddies. And they won’t just decide what they need – they will go down and talk with them and discuss it with them and work it out together.
I love my church.
I am in my third semester in Graduate School now, live in a nice apartment in El Cerrito two blocks from BART with awesome roommates and so long as I live a non-acquisitive life-style I am secure financially via student loans.
I love my life.
But I never take anything for granted and even this morning at 4 a.m. when I was taking a nice hot shower I felt so grateful remembering how I used to have to hot-towel shampoo my head in the Starbucks washroom and quickly shave at 5 a.m. I was always clean and you would never have known I as homeless – even I didn’t think about it much until one day my backpack got stolen (also about this time last year) with my laptop and school books in it. I was devastated.
I also remember looking longingly through a window at a bed..much like the one above. Now I lounge at night on one just like it with a row of bamboo lights across the top with my 40″ HDTV gently showing the Pacific ocean or a Zen Garden in Japan with light rain and koi swishing through the marsh to light music…
Laura (my girlfriend) and other friends helped me through. In the next year it is possible I may start being a public school teacher now that I am half way through getting my Masters degree.
Sometimes girlfriend is over and we cuddle up and watch a show or lay there and talk or kiss or pray.
Life does not have to be complicated or expensive.
I am doing 3.5 or above academic work and also great art. Not everyone who is Homeless really needs to be – but they need a little help. I was Homeless for near 5 years. You have no idea how hard it is – It is harder than any full-time job I ever had.
I am just now relaxing after a year.
I still keep contact with the Camp, help where and when I can. They will always be my brothers. You don’t really just “move on” even though you move forward.
If you can, drop Oakland City Councilwoman Lynette Gibson McElhaney a note in support of her work and congratulate the City Council itself for its visionary leadership and for making a humanitarian decision that will bring heat. The fact of the matter is they probably did the math and realized that the Homeless are not going to go away and it is best to work with them. They are correct. I know these guys and if they will work with them most of them will bend over backwards to work with the City to keep the place as clean and orderly as possible.
The fact is they have nowhere else to go. If I did not have a B.A. and if I had not been able to find a psychiatrist to work pro bono to balance my bi-polar II condition I would probably have never gotten out.
But while there I ran a camp that was committed to non-violence, no hard drugs of ANY kind (I kicked one guy out) and zero tolerance for stealing. We lived in peace and worked with CalTrans and all other law enforcement peaceably.