OO Fatigue (or is it harder just being homeless?)

Okay, I know many of us are suffering from OO fatigue. I told everyone at a meeting I was attending last night on that very subject that I couldn’t discuss it anymore. It’s perplexing that the movement that was designed to confront our frustrations at the 1%, is now frustrating so many of us.

But it does still dominate so many discussions in this town. This morning I got off the bus to attend a Public Works meeting at City Hall on a project that is being built in my neighborhood, a wonderful little plaza, as a matter of fact, where folks can gather in our charming district.

I took out my camera to snap a shot of the amphitheater that was shining in the morning sun and saw a man who I realized was experiencing a seizure. Two people were holding him so that he wouldn’t hurt himself.

As there is seizure disorder in my family, I was not particularly frightened for him so long as he was being protected from injury. After calling 911-by the way, it’s 777-3211 on cell phones so that you don’t get routed through the Highway Patrol-I asked some of the helpers to keep their voices quiet as epilepsy sufferers are in sensory overload after a grand mal and need a long period in a quiet, dark place (unlike an ambulance, but there was the possibility of other injuries).

A seemingly drunk older man who was there argued loudly with me, and a woman who was helping the man remarked that the older man was often difficult like that. The ambulance did arrive soon and take the man away.

I saw another man painting a large banner to string across the plaza demanding that Mayor Quan be recalled and that someone named Derald Harris be elected. I asked who that was and he replied, “Me!”

After the meeting I stopped at a shop on the plaza for a bite to eat and ran into some of the facilitators whom I recognized, chatting, eating, and planning. As they left I asked how they were doing, and one young man replied that he was no longer camping but otherwise still quite involved and doing fine.

The restaurant owner explained to me and another patron that she was upset that during the 2 days the plaza had been closed by the police, she’d had no business as no one was even allowed through.

This owner totally supports OO and said that these are the conditions [the OO encampment] that many people now live in all over the country. She believes it’s good that they are calling attention to so many people’s suffering. She even lets them cook some of their meals in her kitchen. By the way, the occupiers have planted a winter vegetable garden in the city planters.

Vegetable gardens are blooming at the Plaza

I walked over to Snow Park on my way home and found a bucolic scene at the little encampment there. One gentleman who now lives there told me that their group did not want to live in the crowded conditions in which many on Ogawa/Grant Plaza live. I suggested they design their own city planning codes that would limit the number of tents, and he said that they had already done that. He told me that their group sends reps to the GA’s at the plaza but otherwise have their own events and issues, like mowing the grass and taking care of the park. He said that their occupiers, like the ones at city hall, were trying to reach out to local businesses.

I asked him if he would be living in the “streets” if he did not have the camp and he told me that he had been unemployed for 8 months and no longer had an apartment. He said that if they are moved they will set up camp somewhere else.

If you look around Oakland very carefully these days, you will find many sizes and styles of encampments. This is now a reality in our society that no city council or chamber of commerce can stop or apparently prevent.

Man washes his hair in the sun at Snow Park

So tonight, I have no new conclusions to draw or grandiose answers to offer. But, it seems to me that the pressure to close down the OO encampment is building rapidly and has the possibility of taking down a very progressive, solution-oriented mayor as well as resulting in pain to those to whom it has given hope and even to those who revile it.

I keep hoping for a way out of that sad ending and it’s what keeps me visiting, talking and writing about it. I was outside in my front yard as one of my neighbors, a progressive woman who works in the public sector, was walking her dog-I asked, “So what’s the solution (I hadn’t named the problem)?” And she replied, “It’s complicated.”

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