In the past week, we’ve seen some very disturbing things that have shown just how bad things are in terms of the lack of empathy and humanity in the hearts of many.

The other night we saw scores of angry people in Berkeley come out in full force to protest people who are living in their cars and RVs. These uncaring folks were pounding the tables demanding that houseless folks not BE ALLOWED to park on city streets overnight. The Berkeley City Council, under great pressure, responded and voted to basically shut down those who can’t afford $3,000 rents.

Police and DPW workers force homeless campers to get rid of or move their belongings. Now, they want to get rid of their RVs. Photo by John Youll

Berkeley joins a host of other cities, most notably Mountainview, which led the charge, that forbids folks from sleeping in RVs and cars overnight. You will find signs even in various parts of Oakland disallowing this as well.

During the City Council meeting, you had all sorts of folks stepping forward talking about they are scared for their safety and that folks living in their RVs are messy, while others were crying about how they paid all sorts of money for their homes and don’t want the homeless around. It was disgusting and just underscores how out of wack we have gotten.

A few things to keep in mind. Long before we saw this crazy meeting at Berkeley City Council, we saw war being waged at Cal students living in RVs who were parked over at the Marina in Berkeley. Many students, from Cal to San Jose to SF State, cannot afford high housing costs that go along with high tuition. 

They are among the houseless population as they are trying their best to improve their lot in life by attending school. Sadly, people complained and laws were found that led to the eviction of those car and RV dwellers.

Others started parking in other parts of Berkeley. Again the reason being, its damn near impossible to find affordable housing. 

Many others who sleep in their cars do so because they have two or three jobs and live far away, which makes commuting damn near impossible and hella expensive, now that we have all these toll lanes that do surge pricing, where prices can skyrocket to over 10 bucks just to ride one stretch of freeway. Let me give you an example, of how your car becomes a home of sorts, since I was one of those folks for a short spell.

To cross the bridge from Oakland and get out to SF/Daly City at the height of rush hour, that drive was taking more than two hours. Keep in mind, this was coming from Oakland, not Tracey, Modesto, Fairfield etc, where so many others are commuting from. In order to avoid that nightmare, it was actually more conducive to leave my house at 4 am and get over to SF by 4:30.

Only problem, nothing was open that early in the morning. That meant that I would park my car, sleep for a bit, read or do some work as I waited for nearby coffee shops to open at 6 am. Keep in mind, I didn’t have to be to work until 9 or 9:30 so I had 3-4 hours to kill each morning. I wasn’t alone in doing these super early morning commutes to avoid mad traffic. 

Like many others, I also found it was easier to stay and hang out later in the evening to avoid horrific traffic conditions to return home to Oakland. So rather than sit in traffic during peak rush hour times, it was easier to find a cafe or other establishment where I could park for free and wait for traffic to die down. 

Again, keep in mind, I’m commuting to Oakland. Imagine the plight of folks who been displaced to Tracey, Stockton, Modesto. Many of those folks have two jobs — which means rather than make a 2-3-hour commute only to come back, they will park their car and sleep somewhere before heading to their next job. Others will literally live out their cars for a few days and stay near their jobs rather than do the crazy commutes. 

That’s just one scenario. Many others simply don’t have $10,000 sitting around to pay first and last months’ rent plus deposit to move into an apartment, even if they can actually afford the rent, so they are living out of cars and RVs. Folks like me have a home, it’s the traffic that keeps us in cars. These other folks have no home at all. Their cars and RVs are home. But sadly greedy, unfeeling ruthless residents in all these cities are rushing to city councils demanding laws be passed so no one can sleep in cars and campers. The refrain you hear over and over is “Not in My Neighborhood.”

Adding to the car dweller population are folks who are coming to the Bay Area from all over the state who are part of the so-called gig economy. Many people hold jobs that require them to drive their own cars. Many are Uber and Lyft drivers. Others are delivery folks. I’ve met folks who are living out their cars while hustling for gigs three or four days a week before returning home to one of those outlying cities. They have been told over and over again, that the money is here in the Bay Area. 

Every day they are bombarded with gleeful news reports about how the Bay is brimming with millionaires with thousands more soon to emerge after some tech companies go public. So folks are driving their cars from all over the state trying to cash in. Ain’t too much money to be made in Modesto and Stockton. 

For many car dwellers, cafes and coffee shops have become essential and important additions to their lifestyle. They are the new living rooms and water cooler spots where car dwellers use the washroom to freshen up, grab a snack, a drink, and use the wifi while working their gigs.

Sadly, many of these establishments are also reacting to the complaints of unfeeling newcomers who are complaining that all the seats are taken or that there are lines for the bathroom. So now we see cafes putting time limits on your stay and combination locks on the bathrooms.

Complicating all this are the thousands of folks who don’t live in cars or RVs but now live in tents under freeway overpasses, alleyways, and storefronts. These folks are being pushed from one neighborhood to the next, which has resulted in contentious fights in cities like San Jose and SF, where we’ve seen stiff opposition to not only the encampments but also to proposed service centers and facilities to help those living in tents in our streets.

Last week we saw rapid angry folks in San Jose yelling and getting hysterical: “Not in my backyard.” “Get rid of these people.” “They are gonna hurt my kids.” 

In SF we have all these elitist folks are pooling their money to hire a lawyer to stop the city from opening a center to help the houseless near the Embarcedaro.

What’s crazy about this entire situation is that many of the folks running around insisting that we have stringent laws in place to stop folks from sleeping in cars or to not have service centers in their neighborhood are one bad fire, one bad earthquake, or one or two missed paychecks away from being in a dire predicament where they, too, will be forced to sleep in cars or under a freeway. 

Those who oppose the help being given to others will be crying the loudest and be the most demanding and trying to get to the front of the line if they find themselves and their lives upheaveled.

Let’s not lose our humanity. It’s sad to see that so many others have already checked out and tossed theirs away.