By Alberto Duenas
There is little doubt that the homelessness issue in the San Francisco Bay Area has gotten worse over time. However, movements such Coyote Meadows Coalition aim to alleviate the matter at hand by bringing the community and those who serve said communities together through planning, organizing, and educating those unaware of the subject. The group’s main goal is to transform a wrecked creek, including a former homeless encampment into an exciting urban distributed and networked park known as “Coyote Meadows”. According to their website, the project was planned and organized in an effort to help “reduce pollution and minimize homeless activity while providing excellent recreational opportunities”.
Recently, I had the opportunity to become part of the movement and volunteer in a creek clean-up along Coyote Creek for National River Cleanup Day, and I must say the experience left me disturbed, but it also left me in high spirits. What is interesting is that prior to this experience, I felt ecstatic about finally having the opportunity to help the homeless since I have personally seen the issue progress overtime in San Jose and other neighboring cities. Moreover, as a City of San Jose employee who has worked at Happy Hollow Park & Zoo on Story and Senter Road I have also witnessed the eviction of hundreds of homeless from one of the largest homeless encampments formally known as “The Jungle” only to be displaced elsewhere in the city. I was heart broken when I saw one homeless individual trying to survive without any food, water, shelter, or medical assistance, since some people have developed mental disabilities that will more than likely result in their arrest. These are hard to swallow truths; and they also left me disturbed.
In particular, what left me disturbed after I volunteered with Keep Coyote Creek Beautiful was that I came across an old toy truck, left half-buried in the dirt. Most would not make a big deal or even think about what they have discovered during a clean-up. However, I was puzzled as to who was the owner of the toy; what disturbed me the most was the likelihood that it may have belonged to a homeless child. A common misconception is that adults are the only group of individuals who are homeless, but the reality is that anyone can become homeless, including kids, teens, and young adults. On the other hand, I left the clean-up event with high spirits knowing that I did something to help out my community simply by picking up trash that is contaminating and polluting the watershed. In addition, I enjoyed my experience and know that this was the first step towards alleviating this homelessness concern that most of us share.
Overall, I loved volunteering for the National River Cleanup Day at Coyote Creek because it made me realize how much of an impact can be made when individuals come together to plan, organize, and educate those who are not aware of the current homelessness issue. In fact, I loved my experienced so much the first time that I plan on doing it again sometime in the near future. I would also like to thank my professor, Joseph DiSalvo, who offered this opportunity in lieu of taking the final for our Race, Gender, and Inequality class because it served as a taste of what it is like to be involved in issues in our day-to-day lives that concern us. All in all, homelessness is a transparent issue that is universal and common among urban and poor communities. Specifically, in Santa Clara County the matter at hand is rising due to a failed justice system that neglects and overlooks homeless individuals; therefore society needs to become involved, either directly or indirectly simply by donating, contributing, and volunteering in programs or movements such as the Keep Coyote Creek Beautiful.