China Town is not merely one town. It is a designation for particular districts of several Communities throughout the World. Many of such China Town districts were developed to accommodate immigrants from China who were unwelcome to inhabit portions of the same Communities in which they worked. China Town of San Francisco, which is the oldest major China Town in America, originally accommodated immigrants from China as they transitioned from mining and railroad construction to shipping and industrial work within San Francisco.
Such institutionalized discrimination confined development of many China Town districts to regions that were undesirable to others within their respective Communities. The last China Town of Santa Cruz was located within the floodplain of the San Lorenzo River, east of Front Street, mostly between Soquel Avenue and Cooper Street. It developed as a residential neighborhood after a fire destroyed a previous China Town in 1894. For the following half century, it was slowly replaced with more industrial development, until the Christmas Flood of 1955 destroyed the last few remaining residences.
Half a century later, the Benchlands Camp, which is inhabited by many of the unhoused of our Community, developed directly to the northwest of the former China Town, on the opposite side of the same floodplain of the San Lorenzo River. It is just as vulnerable to flooding as the former China Town was, but unlike the former China Town, occupies an area within a public park that is intended to be accessible to everyone of the Community. Very understandably, the Community wants to recover their public park space.
Incidentally, the Benchlands Camp developed as a result of the evacuation of the former Ross Camp to the southwest of the Highway 1 Bridge over the San Lorenzo River. The former Ross Camp was outside of a levee that excluded flooding, on otherwise unused land that is owned by Santa Cruz and California.
Felton has certainly changed since my grandparents arrived in the early 1940s. So many more homes have been built around their formerly isolated home on Ashley Street. A supermarket and two big drug stores are within walking distance of Downtown. There are more people and traffic here in Felton now than there were in Sunnyvale when they left.
Wow, Sunnyvale has certainly changed as well.
Yet, nature is still natural. The second growth redwoods are getting to be eighty years older than they were back then. So are some of the old oaks and firs. Otherwise, the forest and all the flora and fauna in it function now like they did back then.
It has been slightly more than a year since I wrote ‘Fake Environmentalism‘, about the misconception that homelessness is more detrimental to the environment than domestic lifestyles are. That article was more about how domestic lifestyles affect the environment in ways that few of us give much thought to, rather than the relatively minimal impact of homelessness.
We all have seen pictures of the most horrendous of homeless encampments, which are typically inhabited by those afflicted by functionality compromising mental disorder. Encampments such as these exemplify homelessness no more accurately than the White House exemplifies all domestic situations. They are rare, and still less polluting than average domestic lifestyles.
Most homeless encampments are not much to get pictures of. Many homeless people leave nothing where they sleep for the night, but instead take everything with them when they leave in the morning, even if they return at the end of the day.
I could see no evidence of encampments while walking with Rhody through an area where a few homeless people live. I might have found minor evidence if I had looked for it, but that was not my intention. If I had wanted to see evidence of human habitation, we would have walked on one of the several suburban streets in town.
Dedication of the Steven Michael Ralls Memorial Tree on May 2 brought back memories. That should probably be expected from a memorial. However, the tree is new. The site of the dedication is what we remembered. It was a campsite where Steven temporarily lived while homeless in the autumn of 2012. It has changed significantly since then, but is still recognizable.
Homelessness is generally not a preferred alternative to a domestic lifestyle, at least within local cultures and societies. Otherwise, more of us would be homeless. Those who are experienced with homelessness would not recommend it to those who are not. There are just too many advantages associated with domestic lifestyles. Homelessness is just too challenging and arduous.
Yet, at the Dedication of the Steven Michael Ralls Memorial Tree, we remembered many of the pleasant experiences associated with Steven’s former campsite back in the autumn of 2012. Homelessness really is challenging and arduous, and can be downright oppressive, but it does not necessarily deprive those who experience it of all opportunities to also experience pleasure.
Homelessness can be incredibly enlightening. It can expose the best and worst of humanity; and just might demonstrate how some of the worst is not as bad as it is commonly believed to be. Homelessness is certainly an adventure, which compels participants to formerly unrealized resourcefulness. It really can be the best of times, right in the middle of the worst chapter of life.
It is worth considering that anyone can attend a concert of the Oakland Symphony, and thousands do; but very few were privileged to attend intimate and exclusive solo concerts by Steven Michael Ralls with his tired old guitar, at his dusty campsite where his Memorial Tree was recently installed. Those uniquely privileged few are among the more fortunate of our Community.
Cave paintings might be considered to be some of the oldest examples of what we now know as graffiti. Alternatively, such ancient forms of self expression might have evolved into the sorts of artworks produced by Lester Johnson, Frida Kahlo, Mary Cassatt and Henri Matisse. Perhaps it all developed from the same primitive origins of more than sixty-four thousand years ago.
That is inconsequential now. Works of renowned artists are exhibited in museums. Graffiti defaces infrastructure until it gets painted over, or merely defaced and obscured by more graffiti. Except for several galleries of very compelling local art, and occasional touring exhibits, there are no formal art museums in Felton. However, there is more graffiti than only a few years ago.
Haters often blame the homeless for graffiti, merely because some of the homeless camp in some of the same places where graffiti is prominently displayed. In other words, the homeless did it because they were there. According to that logic, the haters must be responsible too, since they were also there. Otherwise, they would not have seen enough graffiti to blame others for it.
What makes anyone think that homeless people have any interest in the sort of elaborate graffiti that has been appearing around town for the past few years anyway? Homeless people have many more important issues to be concerned with. Drawing attention to their camp sites is not exactly a priority. Nor is spending limited funds on something as unnecessary as spray paint.
Besides, while graffiti has become more common than it has ever been, homelessness has become significantly less common. There are presently only a few homeless people in Felton. Most are not sufficiently agile to get into the situations where most of the graffiti has been displayed.
One would think that moving camp would be easier than relocating from one home to another. In some ways, it is. Obviously, there is less to move. Almost everything in a well outfitted camp can fit into a few large boxes or trash bags. This particular site involved a bit more than that, since it stored extra bedding and clothing for others. Nonetheless, we moved it all with only two partial loads of a tiny station wagon. It was reasonably efficient.
The difficulty is removing the baggage discretely from a location that is not easily accessible, and then relocating it even more discretely to another site that is even less accessible because the trails are not yet cleared. Moving out is of course easier than moving in, not only because the trail is somewhat cleared, but also because discretion is not quite as important. By the time someone complains, and deputies respond, we will be gone.
Yes, there are those who complain while we are moving out.
Deputies don’t mind. They are accustomed to it. If they have time,
and they know we must park on the side of a busy road, they might
even come out to park behind the station wagon with their red and
blue lights on for safety. In the past, they have helped carry the
baggage to get us off the side of the road more efficiently!
Seriously! We have some AWESOME deputies here!
It is more important to be discreet while moving into the new
site. We typically wait a few hours before doing so, just because
stalking haters like to pursue the station wagon after leaving the
abandoned site, in order to identify the location of the new site.
Even if the new site is on private property with the permission of
the property owner, haters want to know about it, and often trespass
onto such properties just for the sake of stalking.
Anyway, we are sort of done for now. We just need to sort through
the baggage so that some of it can be put into storage, and only what
is necessary can be taken to the new site.
This will be very brief. I must be on my way to collect the belongings of one of our members who is homeless in Felton, put some of it in storage, and relocate some to a new campsite.
This will also lack pictures. I will not show the new site, and
will not be going to the former site. I will be collecting what I
must nearby, but only as near as I can get the car.
It is always nice when someone who had been homeless moves into a
new home. So much of the formerly homeless lifestyle gets discarded
and replaced with what goes into a domestic lifestyle.
Moving camp is nothing like that. It involves leaving one bad
situation only to move into another. The rush to vacate interferes
with the ability to sort and discard what will not be needed at the
new site. Everything must be moved collectively, and then sorted
later. Organization is very difficult without a home. Bedding is the
biggest part of it. Although lightweight, it is bulky. It is not easy
to be discrete while schlepping trash bags full of bedding.
Moving into a new site without being pursued by stalking haters is
another difficulty. At least they are not as bad as they used to be.
Those who merely have issue with homelessness seem to have realized
that such behavior does not make homeless people any less homeless.
Only those who enjoy the sadistic sport of it continue, even if it
involves trespassing onto property that they do not want the homeless
As unpleasant as homelessness is, the homeless situation here has
improved significantly in the past few years. Because more homeless
people have found homes than formerly homed people have become
homeless, there are fewer homeless people in the Community. The
Community is just as generous as it has always been, with the same
abundance of resources.
Well, it is nearly 2:30, so I really must be on my way.