by Caroline Pohl
The Suitcase Clinic runs three drop-in clinics in Berkeley each week: Youth Clinic, Women’s Clinic and General Clinic. In all three of our clinics, we welcome our clients with open arms.
Despite only weekly services and lack of permanent facilities, Suitcase Clinic aims to create a community for its clientele while also providing them with immediate healthcare and relief. Suitcase Clinic, as an organization, parallels the temporary and ever-changing climate of homelessness — empowering its volunteers with the ability to adapt to meet the different needs of our clients.
At General Clinic, we strive to cater to the entirety of Berkeley’s homeless community: the young and the old, women and men, newcomers and regulars. Our volunteers take extra measures to provide people with personalized services, such as soothing clients during footwashing and massage, listening closely to their requests in haircuts, and following through with their dilemmas from the previous week. This makes the experience, both for the clients and volunteers, different with each visit.
So this week, on behalf of General Clinic, I would like to introduce you to one of our clients, known to many of us as Twinklebell, and to others simply as Twinkle. Here is a man beloved by both volunteers and clients alike, and whose adamant desire to do good for his own community inspires many of us at Suitcase Clinic.
A Berkeley native, Twinkle came from a large middle-class family, with 70 first cousins. He grew up in a past era transformed by the great civil rights movements of the 1960s and 1970s, and his family members were active participants in this new wave of radicalism. As a Mexican-American himself, Twinkle spent his childhood struggling in concord with these groups in order to gain a sense of his own community identity.
Twinkle is both an activist and leader within the homeless population. “It is my choice to live a nomadic lifestyle,” he said, “and to find out what freedoms we really do have.”
Twinkle possesses a high school degree, as well as two years of a community college education. He has a background in legal studies, and works independently, choosing his battles on the streets in the context of larger political endeavors.
Just the other day, Twinkle challenged police officers who were wrongly interpreting Oakland’s Sit-Lie Ordinance by enforcing the law at an incorrect time interval.
“I simply bring these kinds of cases to court,” Twinkle said. “Whether or not a lawyer or organization wants to choose to carry through with them to a higher level, well, that’s their choice.”
According to Twinkle, many people are driven to homelessness by the impractical ideals of happiness forged by the media.
“When you think about it, our country is one of the richest in the world,” said Twinkle. “For as long as I have lived, the economy has been pretty darn great, too. So, then why are a large number of people still unhappy and why are things still the way they are?”
Currently, Twinkle is working at a grassroots level to change this, and is an active participant in Indybay.org and Farmer’s Market campaigns. He also recently attended Suitcase Clinic’s Homelessness and Poverty Symposium.
Yet, Twinkle’s ultimate goal is to secure a sense of community in the Bay Area. He encourages others to dance with him as he attends Ecstatic Dance three to four times a week, and wants to bring back the ice-skating rink Berkeley once had a long time ago.
“I’m just trying to bring people together,” said Twinkle. “I believe that we all have a right to happiness — in whatever way we all believe that to be.”