Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Blog Action Day 2008 - Poverty: A Trailer Park

When I first read about Blog Action Day over on a blog called Global Themes concerning poverty, I thought it was an interesting idea. But the more I looked around me in Willits, the more I realized that what looks like poverty here is not nearly the grinding hardship found in some nations, with children living in cardboard boxes on trash heaps, plagued with malaria and malnutrition and filthy water. Could I really make a post appropriate to the small scope of Willits Daily Photo that represents poverty in the global sense of the word? Probably not.

We do have persistently homeless people, who are often mentally ill, or drug addicted, or mentally scarred by combat experiences, but I haven't photographed them, nor have I looked for their encampments. Then there are the drifters-by-choice, who may pursue the "freegan" lifestyle, or ramble through this area hoping to find work in the marijuana underground for a season before hitching a ride back home.

But there are other people who rallied their resources enough at some point, and found a travel trailer or camper to live in, and found a place to legally put it, like the folks in this tiny lot. At least it gives them a permanent address for receiving a small social security check, or to write on a job application. There's a permanent building on site that must have the required showers and toilets. The sycamore trees provide blessed shade in the heat of summer, and there's a billiards table on the other side, next to the street, with a compact florescent light bulb dangling overhead. They are situated right across the railroad tracks from the local food distribution charity. Things could be worse, I suppose. But they surely are below the "poverty line", as defined by demographers and eligibility workers here in the US.

[edit] For more information about advocacy for the homeless, particularly veterans, see the comments on this post by admin/Aron.

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kouji said...

that's a good point. there are indeed different kinds of poverty. over where i live, the philippines, our poverty is quite different.

saw this post via the front page of blog action day. it's great that you're participating. :)

Dina said...

Your words are food for thought.
And thanks for a new to me word: freeganism! Your links are good, opening my eyes.
Trailer parks. . . yes, seems we only hear about them when a tornado blows a trailer away.

Jilly said...

Good choice for today. I would have felt too guilty to join in Poverty day. Hardly any poverty here and you know, it makes you think...

Denton said...

Good post on a difficult subject.

As I review the post, around the world, it is easy to become discourage. I'm feeling like my post, advocating education as a method to fight poverty, may have been over simplified.

However, I when reflect on the very difficult circumstances under which my grandparents lived in contrast to my life today and I have to attribute education as the major change factor.

Pat said...

Very true. Here there are some people, mostly Serbian refugees from Kosovo or Croatia, who left literally everything behind, and if not lucky enough to have some relatives in Serbia who are able and willing to help them, find life very, very hard.

Profile Not Available said...

Excellent post, Elaine. Very thought provoking.

Anonymous said...

I think I qualify as "freegan" lite.

I once had near 200 people living in a vacated property behind my studio in downtown L.A.. It was amazing how quickly those living there established a power structure. Alcoholic Vietnam vets held the top positions.

John said...

Got questions how to deal will the problem of Homeless Vets? Contact: or These men work with veterans and other homeless around the country. They are veterans themselves.

Amanda Long

USelaine said...

kouji/haiku - Thank you for your visit.

Dina - They certainly point out the enormous waste of US resources, but I don't think dumpster diving subverts the capitalist paradigm. The urban gardening aspect might.

Jilly - Surely there are low wage jobs on the Riviera, aren't there? I wonder where the chambermaids and dishwashers for the hotels live. Or the hat sellers on the beach? Do they make such good livings? Not to say you should have participated in this blog meme, but you have me thinking about the economics there too. Don't feel guilty in any case.

Denton - I've read that educating women in particular creates the biggest improvements in impoverished societies. Your link to your family story is wonderful.

Bibi - Refugees always seem to end up in the most desperate circumstances, everywhere. There are refugees from hurricane Katrina that are still waiting to get home somehow, or to find a path to stability somewhere else. And the hurricanes keep coming.

Kelly - Thank you.

PA - You do it for your art, which, as you say on your blog, is part of the aesthetic. I lived in downtown Sacramento for years, and the evidence of homelessness was everywhere, but I didn't get near any big encampments. I suppose some sort of hierarchy must always develop, even in a cardboard prison. In Darwinian Capitalism, you can't have winners without having losers, and the losers have their own measures of weak and strong.

Admin - Thanks for the contact addresses. Is there a corresponding website for them?

Petrea Burchard said...

Excellent post, blogsister. Each town has its own set of circumstances.

John said... from there you can link to the Homeless Underground. Both are in Seattle.

Seattle Operations Coordinator
Seattle, Washington.
This way up, Seattle.

USelaine said...

Thank you Petrea.

And thank you, Aron. I first had my consciousness raised about returned combat veterans when I took a class from Walter Capps at UCSB. We heard from veterans directly, not just academic theories. Our country could sure use his wisdom now.

John said...

Doc and John regularly take other Rangers and former airborne to find and cleanup encampments. They occasionally find "bunker complexes" (his words) that are extremely well hidden, with all of the comforts of home-including electricity. Veteran cop's could not find these placed! One even had running water. Seattle's VA facility both became dumping grounds for vet returning from Vietnam.

Hard core vet's like Doc seem to make peace with the world easier, than the short term vets. The reason being is that even though they went through pure hell, they adapt very quickly in new environments. (something that they get used to after the first ten.)

What even you do in dealing with the homeless, do not reject them. They have been beaten abused by society, rejected, told to move along because of meanness and neglect by government-survived shelter attrition in extremely cold winters. Rita, Katrina, Ike and the sub-prime mortgage created an estimated 7 million more-still without housing, now subject to turn-aways due to full shelters or other reduced services. With the onset of a bad economy things are going to get worse. Approximately 300,000 homeless died last year from exposure, predatory acts like what happened recently in L.A. Cities are now trying to drive them away rather that help the most vulnerable.

Unfortunately, high pressure campaign yield very little results, due to perceptions that they are all drug addicted, mentally ill, or criminals. Organized Tent Cities like the one's Doc, John, Scott, Michelle are the only- and I emphasize only way to address the needs for those people to survive. City, County Governments are unable or unwilling to provide shelter services for everybody. Jails just make the matter worse. We are available for consultation and education for this growing concern.
remember 78 percent of them are in fact Americans by birth.