Let me be clear. These are my problems and they are pretty damn simple:
- Husband of 27 years died six months ago (need grief counseling)
- RV-home needs mechanic (already paid him $450 these past 4 weeks and he is committed to doing entire project valued in estimate to City that they asked for: $2000 – 450 = $1550 … RV runs now and has been reparked properly half a block from original AAA drop-off Dec 23rd)
- Two front tires ($600)
- Panel on front loft needs work ($300)
- Roof leaks and floor underneath that needs redoing ($700)
- Smog and DMV
- Downpayment at campground system so I can stay 21-day cycle instead of current 4-day plan ($690)
- Pay driver to take RV to 1st campground ($250)
Here’s why, said the nice lady at Episcopal Services at 123 10th St. San Francisco on phone ten minutes ago, why exactly I can’t be helped by the City: Because I technically live in a vehicle, which isn’t a house, the City can’t do anything that doesn’t lead to permanent housing.
I explained HUD rules back to her about RVs parked in campgrounds with hook-ups meet the criteria they (HUD) sets. Made no difference. She didn’t have the comprehensive knowledge I do of how housing is classified for federal funding purposes. Like many civil rights-deprived persons, I do a lot of research.
Of course I pressed her for the down-payment (similar to a deposit) for the “Elite Package” at the campground club, Thousand Trails, which has 7 campgrounds in this area of California … currently I pay $54 a month allows 4 nights then move to next campground, but the next level allows 21 nights and reservations up to six months away…there are utilities, hot showers, bathrooms, laundry rooms, security people and gates. For $690 down, that’s the part I need help with, then I go on to pay $145 a month for 36 months … plus the $54 monthly dues … so for $200 a month … plus what I have to pay a driver to move me … but still, on my tiny SSI budget, with my RV in a park, I can live well … still be mobile yet NOT a burden on society … as in taking up space on “their” streets. Well, she went to her program director and asked for me, because I asked her to, if it could be allowed, but she was told no, “due to the non-permanency of the situation”.
No grants available for the tires, either. Nothing that helps in a practical way. When I told her I knew (from being told by the HOT team) that there is a charity that could help with smog costs and DMV, she knew nothing of that. She did, however, try to cheer me up, by congratulating me on having found an awesome mobile mechanic willing to come all the way from Sacramento to help me. I explained he is the perfect support person for me, as that is the area I am trying to return to, and where I had been on March 18, 2020 when we were forced out of our RV (Sacramento county).
So no help moving to the (rural) campground system nor any help for my mechanic. Alright…so why are you even on my phone? But I was not rude. I didn’t say that. I just thought it. She was super-nice and obviously trying her best. I mean, what an awful job.
Well, after a long silence, then she offered the prospect of a spot at the ‘Safe Parking Lot’ (which is a term I loathe because it flat out tells you how much we are suffering out here that you would have to CREATE something called a ‘Safe Parking Lot’ – geez). We do a housing assessment, exact same questions as other lady including the same go-round with RVs are fit/ unfit for human habitation, and exact same outcome, “I’m sorry but you don’t qualify”. She went on to tell me about a Safe Parking Lot in east Oakland I could try. Ummmm, no thanks.
I politely asked if she was at the end of the session with me. When she said yes, I gave her my little speech about being from the south. I told her if I pulled up on side of road in ANY neighborhood much less a ritzy one like I am now, just any street in any town in Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, the Carolinas. Just stop and put a sign in window “COVID widow on a hunger strike”, I’d be swarmed with church people asking me who had done something to me. Little blue-haired ladies would call husbands, brothers, sons to come fix my RV, throw some tires on, pass the hat, and then put me right back on path to where I was trying to go. A day. It wouldn’t take but a day to fix this. I then, of course, asked her to recognize this lack of aid (financial or practical) is happening because I am a vehicle dweller. She very quietly and sadly said yes. I thanked her for the dignity her answer gave me. I told her I intend for my lawsuit to forever change that. She sounded like she was in tears when she replied, “I really hope you can do it.” I thanked her for her time. She gave me her phone number and said call if she could help me. This is the City’s “Problem Specialist”. I need money for some tires and to pay my mechanic, who by the way came reccomended by Sunset Youth Services (old friends) and is part of a company, a legit mobile mechanic business in Sacramento. I need a down payment (read deposit) to move into the campground. Simple, practical things. But because my house is on wheels, it isn’t a home. It doesn’t get services. I don’t get services. Because I won’t submit to congregant shelter. In a pandemic, with my health issues, I can die. But I will die without housing. I applied for services suited to my particular kind of housing, i.e. on wheels, which by the way, is how I have lived since 1992, by heritage as I am an American-born Scottish Traveller. Maiden name Robertson. And I grew up in Europe, Middle East and Latin America, traveling full-time and self-identifying as a modern nomad (dad was in oil business). Ergo, human right to live this way (i.e. on wheels) by any international standard and a housing right under the 14th amendment, as well as the Unruh Act.
Pitiful. Taking this back to court. Immediately.
Soon as my stimulus comes in, who knows when THAT glorious day comes, but then, I will be gone. In the meantime, the hunger strike continues. And the lawsuit goes on. This is ridiculous. Tell me to go to the Moscone Center with 400 strangers and their dogs, in a pandemic, instead of my HOME with my memories and belongings. Here I am safe.
Right before her call, the “Problem Specialist “, the HOT team came by and brought a nurse. We hit it off great. Blood pressure 120/66 and everything looking good. When I detailed my light fasting diet: 2 eggs cooked in olive oil, 1 piece of bread, kefir, apple juice for vit c, supper is rice and/ or soup broth, she nodded approvingly. I showed my vitamins. I am not suicidal because I take these, I told her. She laughed. I am eating just enough to keep going. I fast every Lent, I told her. No reports of dizziness, etc. Yes, a lot of anxiety but that’s what it will be till I get repaired and gone from this street of hate. She was really cool about my reasons for the hunger strike. I felt like she will report back to the City I am sane but mad as hell and just not taking this status of an illegal citizen anymore. She did say one thing that I will always remember, when she stopped me from saying I am not trying to be aggressive with this hunger strike. She actually put her hand up and firmly said stop. “If you were a man, you would never say that. No one would even think it. You are asserting your rights to protect your health.” I was, to be honest, floored. She’s right too. And I will never ever again say such a 1950’s sort of thing, either.
Below is the recent paper by license plate before I left for my early morning quick run to store for water and supplies. Only time I am truly afraid is this half hour once a week. Eck.
The hate from across street continues. Yelling again yesterday after the cop left. Not as much as last time. That time it went on for an hour, no exaggeration. This was maybe 15 minutes. However, about 7-ish a series of maybe ten, twelve fireworks were set off outside the RV. That was grueling. I prayed through it and calmly waited it out, and as I did I thought about all the gypsies and Travellers through the ages having their vardos set on fire. I would refer you to my papers about societal attitudes towards those of us who live on wheels. The proudest accomplishment of my life was to be accepted in 2017 as an Independent Researcher at Academia because of my work on nomadic hate. The larger paper is 1918 pages, over half-a-million words and is about hate speech allowed in comment boxes in the mainstream media following neutral articles about the nomadic, i.e. hate speech against the GRT (the European acronym used to describe us “gypsy-Roma-Traveller”). The second paper is much shorter, a 32-pg bullet point list of anti-gypsyTraveller laws for the past 633 years, some quite similar to what San Francisco enjoys. Do you know I become a criminal at 10 pm until 6 am just because I am a vehicle dweller? In the year 2021. That’s just incredible to me and I intend to change it. It’s my memorial to my husband. These hate laws WILL stop.
I continue to be confident that I can change this lack of space and lack of services for vehicle dwellers. I am intent on convincing every street worker from the City that I meet that after I am done with their bosses, via the courts, they will have the tools they need to stop homelessness. They will be putting people in campgrounds in the park, tent or vehicle. I tell them, “This is San Francisco, if we do it here, the rest of the nation will eventually do it too. Come on. Space in the parks. That will fix this problem. A piece of the parks. All of them. Let’s make this happen.” They leave openly enthusiastic. I want that. No, I need that. I want them to see my vision of how different this could be. I intend to convert every last one of the City people I make contact with, so they lead the revolution from inside the Machine. I am a thinking woman.
Nobody has to be homeless ever. RVs exist. Parks are easily made. Thousands Trails (celebrating 50 years in business) was a real eye-opener to me. The rich and the middle class use them all the time. Military uses them. First responders use them. Snow birds use them. Nascar people use them. So why exactly shouldn’t we? That’s the question I am about to ask the courts.