Arkley and his Buddies War on the Poor
The Devils Playground is located behind the mall just past the bushes; a place known by local artists as the best public art gallery. There are also about a hundred people living back there, including families. There are even second generation residents.
This eviction equates the destruction of homeless camps, and the intimidation of those who stay. The people who are pushed out, who have it really hard as it is, are left with no where else to go. We can’t fix the “homeless problem” by trying to push them out; people don’t disappear into thin air just because they lost their homes. Instead, they’re becoming refuges from this man-made disaster.
The Devil’s Playground is not a safe or sanitary place to live, but this is more the city’s fault than the squatters. The city never installed garbage cans or toilets in the Devils Playground despite the obvious environmental need over the last 15 plus years. How can anyone be surprised by buckets of human waste, when there’s no toilets back there? And all those pallets that were hauled away aren’t just random trash; fires is how you stay warm when you’re living outdoors. There is still a serious need for trash service. If the garbage company stopped collecting for houses, the streets of Eureka would be filled with trash pretty soon.
The city is evicting the Devil’s Playground residents under the pretense of concern for public health and the environment. Meanwhile, the Eureka bay and all the areas surrounding it are incredibly contaminated by Dioxins and other carcinogens and toxins from the mill that used to operate in the area that is referred to as Parcel 4. This area includes the Devil’s Playground, which they have never done anything to decontaminate.
Instead they provided a grant to New Directions to manipulate homeless people into volunteering to dismantle camps and pick up trash. New Directions will pay these homeless workers for about 60% of the hours they work, and their workers don’t have many other options for employment. So homeless people are being paid less than minimum wage to destroy homeless camps, which in the end leaves these same people in a worse situation than before. They have a little more cash in their pockets but there’s far fewer places to stay now. These evictions shine yet again a light on how desperately our community needs at least an affordable place to camp.
There are deeper issues at play here than merely bad policies regarding sanitation and treatment of the poor and homeless. It isn’t just bad policy, in fact it isn’t even an accident. This act of destroying of a long time encampment area, even though it’s outside of the public eye, is part of a very ugly process. This act is a political push, that is in step with a very troubling ideology that is currently wreaking havoc across the country and around the globe.
Humboldt County politics have always boiled down to class war, whether the working class, employed and unemployed, get a share and a say in their community. This today is expressed in the fight over services and resources for the poor and homeless. It’s a constant struggle to hold on to affordable housing, healthcare, food, and education while people with sway in local and state politics lobby to end these services. Right now, these local elite and politicians are pooling their resources to get rid of these social services. Why? Because if they make enough cuts to affordable housing, social security and food stamps, many of the people considered “eyesores” will be forced to move on. If you agree with this policy, think again; If these elitists succeed, don’t think they will see a distinction between homeless people and the working class people who are the backbone of Eureka.
The Eureka city government wants to serve the well-to-do, attract businesses and wealthy and upper middle class families into the area. Businesses and wealthier individuals pay more taxes; meaning the city “as a business” will do better. This is an ideological conception of the city’s main purpose being to make money, rather than serving as a home where we care for one another. This idea reduces us all to consumers who either pay or are in the way, because in business the bottom line is all that matters.
The people who are pushing to cut services and kick out homeless people at any price, are the same ones who would have us believe that homelessness, unemployment, and addiction are all self-inflicted problems—not at all a result of a social system that creates and perpetuates the environments that necessitate all of them. The city’s local elites and their allies complain of impoverished people destroying the environment. At the same time, they try to develop and profit off of plots of land never cleaned up from corporate toxic waste dumping.
Attacking the homeless and their camps and evicting them, when the city has provided nothing for them is worse than shameful. It lays bare an ideology of economic progress over people—profit over people—at a time when poverty and desperation increase and the climate stutters and groans under an unsustainable way of life.
The way the economic and environmental crisis is going, anyone could be put out of doors any time. There is little doubt that the number of climate refugees and economic refugees will increase, with nowhere for anyone to go unless we establish a camp site. If the city is our home we the people should take care of each other. We should protect our home from the business interests who would harm and rob us. Should we as a community take back our dignity by establishing a more healthy place to live? For example, establishing a camp site now, as a temporary place to stay. We can easily fit a camp with composting toilets, trash cans and water using the appropriate technology skills and know-how that is available in droves in our community.
We need resources for locals who have been thrown out in the cold by our local economy. Everybody should have solidarity from their fellow workers, employed or not, because their fate could easily be yours. We need to get together and find a way to get our dignity and integrity as a community back.