From SoMa to Wood Street Commons, the unhoused suffer as the brutal sweeps continue
By tiny gray-garcia aka povertyskola
Rain flows down
Can’t u see I’m already drowned
Rain flows down
There’s so much room to hold
That empty sound
Hard, Cold rain
Into a body already drained
I look up
Will I survive this—
I know I’m tough
Is there time to save my warmest blanket
My driest shoes
Guess what—I got the Unhoused blues
The eviction crews already came
With the rain
With the poLice to detain
With the blood-stains
And the wet chains
The water-soaked brooms
All the places I dream of that aren’t my rooms
Hard to believe—hard to see
But they’re sweeping, sweeping, in the rain
Sweeping—sweeping in the rain
Mama earth is crying again
Just like this mama when I lost my last home and felt like dying again
Mama earth is crying again
I can’t ever dry my eyes again
This hefty bag can’t hold all the unscreamed screams
They said I have to go—
It’s a sweep don’t you know
But didn’t I tell you I can’t move
I’m so tired tho
Let the trucks come
Take my pain and wash it away with this endless rain
Mama— not sure how much longer I want to live to see another day
The water is me—the rain fills me
The depression stills me—this water—this cold—this wet blanket
it will kill me
The hole inside my heart
It is me
“I can’t feel my toes, my shoes have been wet since last week,” said Johnny X, a RoofLessradio reporter hiding behind a pole with his shopping cart in the South of Market area of San Francisco. “DPW and police came on multiple days all last week to tell us to move in the middle of the worse rains. It was weird, “I was like, really, isn’t there something more important you gotta do?”
Johnny continued to tell me that he was in one of the Shelter in Place motels, in San Francisco original SIP placements for the pandemic, but then Mayor London Breed phased that out and transitioned him into a navigation center, which he couldn’t tolerate with his autism and palsy. He was terrified there, he tried to get back into a motel, but was told that program was “over” and has now retreated to a life on the streets of San Francisco struggling with endless sweeps.
Residents of Wool Street Commons are fighting back against an eviction effort. Here, Wood Street Commons and Homefulness together at the POORmagazine street writing workshop. Photo by Israel Munoz POORmagazine
Thanks to the warrior work of Coalition on Homelessness and Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, a lawsuit was filed against the Breed Administration to stop the violent sweeps that wreak havoc on houseless, disabled, elders, and all people’s lives, but as reported by Johnny and many roofLess radio reporters, they have continued.
“We are creating our own solutions right here at Wood Street Commons, what we need is for the city to cancel these sweeps,” said John Janosko in his Wood Street Wire report for POOR Magazine (POOR Magazine has launched a series of RoofLess Radio street-writing workshops with houseless community at Wood Street Commons). John explained in the second dispatch from the WSW that the City of Oakland is planning yet another sweep starting January 9-20th.
Saturday night at approximately 6pm, a houseless sister was killed by a falling tree in 70 mph winds. Her death is directly correlated with the ongoing and violent sweeps that happen in urban settings like Sacramento that result in us getting pushed deeper and deeper into unsafe rural areas where we are vulnerable to fires, tree falls and floods. The Ross Sweep of several years ago led to the death of Desiree Quintero in the settler tourist town known as Santa Cruz.
“We are just holding onto our tarps for dear life.” Alison, hiding behind a rock in an unincorporated area of Richmond, has been praying to stay alive. “We had a little encampment in the park near here, but the park police forced us to move, we lost most of our good tents, and are now hiding wherever we can.”
“We had to lose most of our stuff because the Coyote River swelled so big,” Alejandro reported to RoofLEss Radio from San Jose. As reported on Papelesparatodos, the city of San Jose received more than $3 million dollars in services but none of it really supports any houseless people, but it does support sweeping houseless people. Advocates in San Jose ended up having to fill in where the city has left off. Sadly, nothing new there.
All across the bay, powerful grassroots, on-the-ground movements like CCSF collective, communitybuildingcollective, Food Not Bombs, Omni Commons, Hotels Not Hospitals, DefundSFPDnow, Anti-Police Terror Project and more along with poor and houseless people-led movements like POOR Magazine-RoofLEssRadio, Wood Street Commons, Self-Help Hunger program, Sacramento Homeless Union and Peoples Park have stepped up to take care of us. Providing blankets, tents, tarps, food, clothes, love, and support as well as hotel rooms to scores of houseless residents all across the Bay.
Closing warming shelters in the cold
“The warming shelters of Berkeley should be open 24/7 but they close all the time, so much so that a lot of us don’t even try to get there, cuz we don’t have phones and don’t know if they will be open or not,” Elisa, 64, explained to me from under her sleeping bag near the shoreline at Berkeley.
As people should remember, the badass houseless warriors at Where do We Go Berkeley had created a safe haven near the shoreline, only to have it continually destroyed and removed by CalTrans weekly. In the end, the City of Berkeley and CalTrans fenced off the entire area where so many of us houseless people found covered shelter. Now the houseless of Berkeley do their best to stay alive, much less warm or dry.
“I don’t know why the City of Berkeley can’t be prepared, these emergencies have happened before,” said advocate and warrior for the people, Paul Kealoha-Blake from Consider the Homeless at a protest at City of Berkeley led by Peoples Park and advocates for houseless povertyskolaz in Berkeley on Sunday, on the one day of good weather before more storms were planned to come to town.
“People were waiting outside the warming shelter many nights throughout these storms, and they wouldn’t let folks in. We know that a lot of us organizers are creating our own solutions like Omni Commons, but we also need the city to do better,” said Aidan Hill, warrior for truth and liberation at Peoples Park.
“Every time I was able to get into a warming shelter, they would throw me out at 5am,” said Israel Munoz, formerly houseless resident leader of Homefulness. While these terrifying storms of understandably angry Mama Earth rage on, eleven of us houseless people of Homefulness are safe under roofs in rent-free forever housing; Broken Cloud, fifteen years on the street, Juju, three years housing insecure and houseless, Angel Heart, more than ten years housing insecure and houseless, Israel, five years unhoused and swept, Dee, three years housing insecure one year evicted, me, Tiny, and my son ten years houseless, two years houseless and then two years mold poisoned and houseless, Muteado and his mama twelve years housing insecure and evicted. Amir, two years houseless with mama, Teo, ten years houseless, Akil, evicted and displaced from SF.
If the land was to become ours the possibilities are endless. Our community is already thriving! So with some land ownership we would be able to thrive even more, help people more.
—John Janosko, unhoused resident at Wood Street Commons in the Wood Street Wire #2
The governor could do something that wouldn’t cost any money to anyone or cause any extra work…put out an order to Stop the Sweeps…
—Lydia Heather Blumberg, resident of Wood Street Commons
Once again, in these brutal rains, it is not the settler governments that actually support us. In fact, they have proven time and time again—as I said in my last story Decolonizing Homelessness —to attempt to kill us, maim us, sweep us and/or incarcerate us away. This continues to be ironic to me considering homelessness, sweeps, and poverty are clearly results of the violent, unsustainable system of krapitalism (my Tiny word for Capitalism).
“Solving” homelessness by sweeping, cleaning, moving, incarcerating, intimidating homeless people will never work. And as Lydia said, it’s really so simple and yet never adhered to: Stop the Sweeps. Period. I would add, listen to us. Period.
In the end, the message is the same as it always is from this povertyskola, from all of us povertyskolaz—we have our own solutions. Wood Street Commons, Peoples Park for the People, Homefulness, these are solutions We are building, living, mamafesting, healing, care-giving, visioning, creating and lifting them up. Listen to us.
Wood Street Commons is asking people to call the new mayor of Oakland to ask her to Stop the Sweeps of Wood Street Commons, slated for the next two weeks. Berkeley is asking for full-time open Warming shelters, San Jose is asking to use the $3 million for actual support and housing and warning systems for houseless people. POOR Magazine is asking wealth-hoarders/land inheritors, people with different forms of privilege to attend the upcoming January session of PeopleSkool and learn how to radically redistribute and heal from the multiple lies of violent krapitalism, We also invite people to an upcoming Theatre of the POOR production; Crushing Wheelchairs, about the violence of sweeps at the Redstone Building on Sunday, Feb 12th at 4pm. A second showing will be performed in Oakland at Pianofight on Sunday, Feb 26th at 2pm. More info email firstname.lastname@example.org