by Berkeley Friends on Wheels for PNN-KEXU RoofLESS Radio
Unhoused residents of Berkeley who live in RVs and vans on the occupied streets of Berkeley (called Huchuin Lisjan by the Ohlone, the first people) wrote their stories in POOR Magazine’s Street-Writing Workshop held weekly on the corner of Eighth and Harrison streets. This powerful community, who call themselves Berkeley Friends on Wheels have dealt with harassment, politricksters and ongoing criminalization for doing nothing but living humbly and cleanly in their RVs.
They are not giving up and are currently working with POOR Magazine to write their Homefulness Creation Story. If you are someone with land or resources to redistribute to these powerful poverty skolaz so they can build their own Homefulness project, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Amber: The police stole my son; I mother others
The police stole us from our home.
Years later, little to nothing has changed.
Nobody who is landless has a right to exist anywhere these days. There might as well be signs all over Berkeley saying: “Poor People: Go elsewhere!”
Whatever I do, wherever I go, (eventually) some officer or some official comes along and does whatever it takes to uproot my existence.
I am a mother. It may not be obvious to the outside observer. But it is true.
When the police stole my son, it sent me into an emotional tailspin.
In my broken-down state, I began to see the bigger picture and the deeper meaning of life.
I gave of myself without awareness of my own needs or of the nature of those to whom I gave.
Then, I found peace and healing on the Albany Bulb. There, I grew healthier and wiser and stronger. But, just as the art around us was ephemeral, so was our home on the Bulb.
The police stole us from our home.
But, they could not steal our sense of Home.
Now, life on wheels, wrenching, thriving, caring, driving: Home. Helping those whom I know are worthy. I won’t help you if your get-down involves harming others. I don’t need that shitty Karma.
I mother others: canine and human, young and old – some have money; most do not.
Water seeks its own level.
I will not drown.
I help others float.
We help each other to rise up.
It is VITAL that we stay positive!
I know no other way. I got it from my Momma.
Like mother, like daughter.
It can be hard to keep your head up when it seems as though the majority of those in charge are actively working to keep you down.
So, we band together and stand together.
One thing that they can never steal is our bond and our sense of community.
Kim: It was like I was never there
This is just one story of many that started my path to landlessness, no place to be. The company I had worked for – the company I gave 10 years of my life to, the company I totally loved, the company I thought I would retire from – let me go, just like that.
At first, I was in disbelief. I told the HR manager, wtf, you’re not funny, and to stop messing with me. When I looked up, I saw all of the serious faces of the people who just moments before I called friends turn on me without blinking an eye.
Once it finally set in and I realized what was happening, I started sobbing like a baby, asking why, what did I do? What have I done to be without a job, insecure about myself and without a safe home, and vulnerable?
Becoming a part of Berkeley Friends on Wheels has made me sleep a lot better, knowing someone’s watching.
They kept saying it just didn’t work out. Bullshit. I know for a fact someone was behind this travesty.
Five months earlier we closed a smaller office and got rid of everyone except the office manager. The word was she wasn’t happy about the change, and it showed. I won’t go through all the petty things I was getting written up for. I even got put on probation.
After almost 10 years of over the top excellent reviews, raises and promotions, I was put on probation. Got through that with flying colors. Ninety days of this person giving me crappy mindless jobs or giving me nothing to do at all. It makes me sick to my stomach just thinking about it.
I just can’t seem to move on. I try not to let it get to me, but something comes over me almost like a death in the family, a sick but sad feeling.
To make a long story short, I got escorted to my desk to gather my 10 years’ worth of stuff, feeling so, so embarrassed. Packing my desk up, all my peers and co-workers passing by, also in disbelief, wondering what happened.
Finally, I couldn’t take it. I grabbed the most important stuff and cried my ass right out of there.
They had a car and driver waiting outside to drive me to my car that I park at BART, El Cerrito, and commute to SF. I guess that was considerate of them. To my knowledge, no one else has gotten a car and driver when they were let go.
Another odd thing, when I talked to a few of my coworkers two or three days later, I asked what was the office buzz going around. They all said nothing, not a single word from anybody. Usually the emails are crazy with gossip or speculation of what may have happened. In my case, nothing. It was like I was never there.
To make things worse, when I received my unemployment package, I went directly to the reason for termination page and saw the words “mis-matched set of skills.” Wtf does that mean?
Filing for unemployment was a nightmare, and job interviews even worse. Try to explain a mis-matched set of skills after 10 years of employment there. I would recommend they call and ask what it means, because I honestly have no idea.
I did know one thing, I was screwed big time. Little did I know this was the first step to having nowhere to be and being without what I’ve had my whole life.
I am now in the city of Berkeley, the place I now call my home, with people I love the most, my husband Patrick and my two dogs. Hoping for a safe place to go for everyone.
Pamela: I would be lost without the Berkeley Friends on Wheels
The scariest time in my life was a year and a half ago when out of the blue I became homeless. I have my three dogs and two cats and my pickup, never felt so alone and scared before in my life.
I ended up going to the Berkeley Marina, where I found so many others in the same situation. Unfortunately, I lost both of my cats within a year, but thankfully I was accepted by everyone at the marina and I feel I have found a purpose in life again despite the pain I carry in my heart!
I would be lost without the Berkeley Friends on Wheels. Love you all.
Poor News Network KEXU Roofless Radio is a project of Poor Magazine, which can be reached at email@example.com.