Mental illness is often cited as one of the driving factors behind the growing homeless population in cities such as Berkeley and Oakland. A lack of resources for the mentally ill has led many people to the streets.
On November 5, 2018, I was released from prison after serving 38 continuous years behind bars. Upon my return to freedom, a parole agent drove me to an area of San Jose that was dotted with cheap hotels. He dropped me off on The Alameda, a boulevard in San Jose, with everything I owned stuffed in a backpack and a small duffle bag.
People measure success in many different ways. For some people it’s marriage and children. For others it is making money. For many it’s just paying the bills due each month. And then you have people, such as myself, who believe that success is in the friendships you make, and in fulfilling the basic necessities needed in order to survive.
On Thursday December 6, without warning, the city administration violently evicted the 13 residents of the Housing and Dignity Village (HDV), a service hub at Elmhurst Avenue and Edes Avenue in deep East Oakland. Over 20 Oakland Police officers were present to lead residents away in handcuffs, as Public Works employees worked overtime to destroy everything on site.
It looks as though we’re closing in on Christmas again, folks. That’s bad news in my book, and (I daresay) in the corporal book of homeless people everywhere. Take my holiday experience several years ago, for example. I spent Christmas Day stuck out in the rain, with services closed for those of my ilk, not to mention the usual five-in-the-morning “indoor resources” being closed (Starbucks, McDonald’s, etc.).
When I was homeless in the Bay Area, I had an awfully hard time getting myself to a bathroom on any kind of regular basis. It wasn’t so bad when I only had to go No.1, as we used to call it. I could usually find some kind of bush to duck behind, and the cleanup process wasn’t nearly so involved. Also, the sense of stigma or shame attached to the act of having to pee outdoors wasn’t nearly so severe as the corresponding sense of shame involved in having to go No.2.
I have spent the last six and a half years of my life homeless, and the last three and a half years living solely on the street. I have put a great deal of effort into gaining first-hand knowledge of the mentalities of individuals I have met.
The mental health system has a long history of subjecting mental health consumers to electroshock therapy and antipsychotic drugs that have extremely damaging long-term effects on the mind and body. Every few years, powerful new neuroleptic drugs are prescribed before the full range of their mind-damaging side effects are fully known.