I believe a person should not have to worry day to day where they’re going to lay their head or get their next meal. That should just be a given - James Kelly
In the Bay Area and Los Angeles, homeless activists are taking the tactics of Occupy a step further, using encampments, or "occupations" as mobile protest vehicles. Within them, the people sleeping in the tents develop their own community. They organize themselves and work together. They make decisions collectively. And they develop their own ideas about what causes homelessness, and for short term and long term solutions to it.
They've created what they call "intentional communities," not just as a protest tactic, but as places where they can gain more control over their lives, and implement on the ground their own ideas for dealing with homelessness.
In rural California, homeless people are overwhelmingly farm workers. Although they're working, they don't make enough to pay rent, and still send money back to their families in their countries of origin. In settlements on hillsides in San Diego, or next to the Russian River in Sonoma County, they create communities bound together often by the indigenous language they bring with them from home.
These photographs are a window into the reality experienced by homeless people in urban and rural California. While there are important differences, it is not surprising that the experience and the circumstances are so similar, as is the effort to create community, no matter how difficult the conditions. In both urban and rural areas people also fight for better housing, and for their right to exist in a public space.
This photodocumentary was developed with the cooperation of California Rural Legal Assistance, the Community Action Network in Los Angeles, and the Frente Indigena de Organizaciones Binacionales. The purpose is to
- document the similarities between rural and urban homelessness and lack of housing - promote common housing ideas that can meet the needs of both urban and rural homeless people - develop communication between urban and rural homeless and housing-deprived communities, to help people advocate for themselves.
This show is especially dedicated to the homeless activists of Berkeley, who were first driven out of Liberty City last fall. Then they were drive from the Post Office Camp, where they'd lived for 17 months, just as I was printing the photographs shown here. Their vision is one we should pay attention to. Instead the U.S. Post Office refused to listen or see what is in front of them, and used the brute force of the Postal Police to drive people away. Instead of the camp and its residents, the City of Berkeley now has this fence and empty, fenced-off space - a monument to hostility to the poor and an eyesore in this supposedly progressive community.
In the 38th Greater Bay Area Journalism Awards David Bacon won first-place in the photo series category for his August 6, 2014 cover story for the East Bay Express, "Living on the Streets of Oakland," a photo essay that examined the situation of homeless people in the Bay Area's third largest city. THE REALITY CHECK - David Bacon blog http://davidbaconrealitycheck.blogspot.com