Cleaning Up Coyote Creek Connects the Minds of All Generations
By Kenneth Rosales, Coyote Creek Cleanup Volunteer Team Leader
The June 13, 2015, Coyote Creek cleanup was a morning to remember. Not only because 55 of us were able to pick-up 3.3 tons of trash, but because of the relationships we build at every cleanup. At every cleanup event, we foster and solicit the exchange of diverse ideas, knowledge, and solutions with youth, senior, minority, and low-income communities.
The group I led worked hard to clean out an abandoned homeless encampment that had an enormous garbage pit filled with toys, furniture, shopping carts, tires, clothes, and many other random materials.
During our break, my team sat down on a circle of logs that had been left by the homeless tenant to drink some water and rest.
Then, magic happened. The youth of the Kuriosity Robotics Club began asking questions about why homelessness exists. These questions transformed into a healthy dialogue about the connection between the economy, environment, and social equity. This is known as the “triple bottom line” to environmentalists and sustainability professionals.
Our group shared stories, statistics, and solutions to homelessness. The conversations ranged in topics like the residual socioeconomic systemic effects of racism, misallocation of city funds, the threats of Citizens United, company tax evasions, the “1%,” the unintended consequences of Prop 13 to the need to raise the minimum wage. The group also felt that the City of San Jose and other responsible jurisdictions need to create a comprehensive community action plan that addresses the nexus between Coyote Creek’s health, the homeless community’s needs, and the community’s willingness to have a clean, accessible creek for recreational use. The team members believed that there needs to be more social services for the homeless, including low-cost housing, increased medical attention for the sick, campgrounds for the homeless who prefer to stay, and park enforcement job opportunities for the homeless who choose to stay.
Although these are preliminary, but creative visions, wishes begin with a conversation. With a nation that severely lacks public spaces to encourage political dialogue, Coyote Creek cleanups are a great way to fill that void. Come to the next one and share your thoughts!
Sadly, despite all our discussions and hard work, we couldn’t clean out the entire pit, but we at least cleared half of it. Perhaps you can help finish the job at our next creek cleanup.