Editor’s note: This was sent to city officials on July 3. The RV campers have been told they must leave the parking lot outside Hs Lordships by July 9.
Mayor Jesse Arreguín and ALL City Council members, City Manager Dee Williams-Ridley and Deputy City Manager Jovan Grogan:
I am writing to you, pleading with you, to open your hearts, to find a way to save a community that is doing all they can to be model citizens of our city, in spite of the fact that they are all living on the fringe, a portion of Berkeley’s own “economic refugées.”
Please read this email, with an open mind and an open heart, and just imagine… if you can… what this must be like for them. Imagine what you are willing to do to help… Imagine what you would want or need were the roles reversed or if these people were members of your family…
The Berkeley Marina Friends On Wheels (BMFOW) consists of 17 households that, when faced with losing their homes and virtually everything else they owned, chose to spend what they were able to get from the sale/repossession of their property in order to at least be able to shelter their families in something better than doorways, sleeping on sheets of cardboard!
They refuse to have their spirit nor their self-esteem taken from them.
They face each day, getting closer to each other, hoping they make the right decisions to salvage these qualities. They have reached out to the community of housed people and have gathered a number of advocates that are standing with them, willing to do what they decide as a community.
There are 28 adults living now, in an intentional community, with eight children, all under the age of 10. Some children attend Berkeley public schools. If they are not of school age, they stay with one of their parents while the other one is working. Among these 28 adults, there are 14 jobs being held by them in the city of Berkeley. Of those 14 jobs, 10 are full time!
This community has been forming for over 10 months, and are a relatively self-sufficient circle of families trying to do the best they can with what little they have left. They ask for very little and do way more than is asked of them. This group looks to each other to help them with their own problems, and they help each one in distress as they can.
Since being forced to move down to Hs Lordships parking lot, they have taken on the responsibility of keeping not only their area clean, but picking up after all the restaurants guests while it was open, as well as anyone else that stopped in the lot just dumping whatever, while they sat in their vehicles gazing at the water or watching the moon set. The breeze from the bay blows over the divider between the water’s edge and the parking lot, and BMFOW gathers that trash as well, disposing of it properly. You do not want to know what they have picked up in these ways!
They are polite and friendly to everyone that comes their way and cause NO problems nor any complaints.
They have been to many City Council meetings telling us their concerns about the future, expressing some of their fears quite eloquently and their hopes quite passionately.
I deeply appreciate the calling of the special meeting of the Council on July 2nd and I witnessed their grief after the vote was taken, grief over what must have felt to them like their imminent demise. I also saw them begin to stand up again to see what collectively they could do, or should do.
Miraculously, during that meeting, an anonymous donor stepped up to pay for all their parking fees for the 4th of July event. BMFOW is even planning an open house and BBQ to meet and talk with some attendees of this event, in spite of the fact that the end of their reprieve is looming over their very existence. (They must leave by July 9, according to the July 2 vote of the City Council.)
Please consider an alternate solution to this dilemma. Think outside the box on this, a box can be very restricting.
At the special meeting of the City Council on July 2, we were ONE VOTE SHORT of a humanitarian decision! There were three members absent that did not have the opportunity to vote. Perhaps that is one way to throw a Hail Mary Pass! Give the three council members that were absent, and not able to voice their opinions nor to cast their vote, the video of the meeting and ask for their vote!
Or, come to some agreement that gives the BMFOW the right to stay in a vacant, unused parking lot until a suitable space can be found where they can go, and give you more time to find one.
If you are concerned about any problems with Hs Lordship’s building, the crew was there to fence it Monday morning, they can do that anytime you want. Also, if there is any cost for “security” I can only imagine that same security would be needed whether we, as a city, and a community with heart, allowed them to stay until alternatives were found, or not.
PLEASE DO THE RIGHT THING!
It is not too late…