Friday March 8, 2013
San jose, CA
Home of a several fortune 500 companies, a pro hockey team, an art museum and a world renowned summer jazz festival, San Jose is located along the Guadalupe River. A lesser known landmark in the capital of silicon valley is Guadalupe Park. As a multi-use facility, a portion of Guadalupe Park includes a small baseball field and its location adjacent to the runway serves as a fallout zone for the San Jose airport. Until today Guadalupe Park had another use; as a settlement of around 50 encampments.
The encampments could be seen while driving down W. Hedding on the way to the courthouse / jail complex. The settlement seemed like it could qualify for it's own zip code. Different color tents anywhere in size from a small camping tent to large 20' x 20' plots rigged up with tarps, shopping carts and milk crates were evenly spread throughout the 30 acre field of the lot at the corner of Spring and W. Hedding. Cars and trucks could sometimes be seen parked out overnight next to camp sites. Although a few of the former residents of Guadalupe Park had cars, bicycles were always prevalent in the area. Dogs and cats also lived in the park as companions to their displaced masters.
The scene resembled something along the lines of the recent Occupy Encampments, 1960's Tent City or the Hoovervilles of the 20s. People driving down W. Hedding were not the only witnesses to the present vagabonds. With its runway location, the Guadalupe Park encampment seemed like a welcoming on the tarmac to the great capitol of technology. A Businessmen or tourist flying first class into San Jose could view the encampment from through the window of the aircraft amid their descent. City officials and San Jose businessmen may have seen the encampment as an eyesore. According to the park rangers from Guadalupe Park, this was one of the reasons for the city's eviction of the over 100 people deemed vagrants at Guadalupe. The official reasons for the decision however, would be familiar to anyone who followed the Occupy Movement. Park rangers explained that the campgrounds were illegal in that there was no overnight camping permitted. They also explained that shit and lead acid batteries posed a sanitation problem. That being said, these encampments had been there for at least one year and seemed to be rapidly expanding.
While the park rangers may have had the jurisdiction over the park, the decision to tear down the encampment according to one cleanup crew worker came from higher ups. When asked, one man involved with the cleanup crew alluded to the politicians, among them the mayor.
With last night's memorial service still looming in the minds of law enforcement, over a dozen San Jose police officers were there to oversee the take down of the campsites. Cleanup crews which consisted of 20 or so young Hispanic men fulfilling their community service duties could be seen filling trash bags and throwing the homeless' belongings into a dump truck. The Guadalupe Park brigade also consisted of two San Jose City animal patrol vehicles and an SJPD paddy wagon, presumably to round up any unwilling inhabitants.
When asked where the former inhabitants would be going, one worker just shrugged. The rangers mentioned that some representatives for emergency housing were present during the dismantling, but that many people with mental illness would be admitted to hospitals. Further, if such displaced persons were not complaint with the various requirements, a "law enforcement approach" would be resorted to.
A look around the scene would reveal that the former resident-campers from the area within Guadalupe Park were used to this sort of displacement. Shopping carts and bicycles with heavy bags tied to their sides were pushed or ridden away in every direction from settlement; the people with nowhere to go.
After all, a night's stay and a lunch down the street at the jail house may not seem so bad after living in a tent for 6 months.