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Hi Mimi and Elise,
Thank you Mimi for your work with the homeless in the Tarpees
I am all for emergency versions, evolving into permanent
On 5/13/2021 11:05 AM, Elise Aymer
I understood from your post that the immediate peril for
the village will be the city's "clean up" sweep that could
come at any time.
- Are there any activist efforts to fight the eviction that
we can help with? Letters? Calls? Petitions? Protests/other
actions? Upcoming hearings about the site?
- Does the village need financial support or donations of
food or other goods? Is there anything like a GoFundMe to
which we could contribute?
I am asking as not everyone on this list is local and not
all of us are able to get out to the village for a tour or to
be active on-site alongside the residents but may still want
Before explaining the tarpee village in St Johns, I'd
like to tell you about Jason Barns Landing which is the
name of the tarpee village.
Jason Barns was a houseless person in St Johns. I met
him about 5 years ago freezing in the icy rain at Safeway.
I got him clothes from truck and helped him change out of
his wet pants and shirt. He had plastic bags on his feet
instead of socks because he had no socks. We became very
close that year, and I made sure, as did others, to know
where Jason was sleeping on the street and make sure he
was alive. He was one of our most vulnerable on our
streets. He came to one day, in tears, pleading w/ me to
build a village for him and his street family. He knew
he'd die on the streets if they didn't have a village. I
brought him w/ me to talk to Wheeler---we both knew
Wheeler would lie to him, but there's something about
being able to speak truth to power anyway. The story
around that is long and I won't delve into it here other
than to say that of course, Wheeler lied. Jason died on
Willamette Blvd just before Thanksgiving in 2018 while
canning. The unhoused community that I am a part of as
their advocate, made a commitment to follow through on a
village in memory of Jason. While we had tried to "follow
the rules" while Jason was alive, we didn't succeed. Soon
after, Jason Barns Landing became a reality.
JBL, as it's known to us, was a self-determined village
put up w/ the help of others like myself who know that the
city process kills houseless people while it slugs its way
through bureaucracy. Folks on the street don't have time
to wait. Waiting is a luxury only the wealthy can live
through. The initial JBL village was put up on the north
side of the Peninsula Trail at Columbia. We had 2 toilets
bought and pre-paid by a business owner in St Johns, for a
year! But Nick Fish had the toilet company remove them. So
we got them again. Nick Fish had them removed. Again. Nick
Fish sent out the goon squad of Park Rangers and Cops on a
weekly basis to threaten our women (and men), assault our
Black female resident with racial epithets, and threaten
all of us w/ jail time. Weekly. We lasted for 9 months
even throughout all of this. By winter we decided due to
the daily harassment by the city, we should disband for a
bit and come together again in the future.
That time has come. After sweep after sweep, our
friends from JBL and others on the Cut, have had enough.
They asked for another village, especially since they were
lied to about the St Johns Village that's across the
street from the SJCC. That village was never for us. We
all knew that. For years, we've known that.
Enter the tarpees. We spoke to a man who's part of the
Salish tribes in WA who designed tarpees for Standing
Rock. After many zoom mtgs w/ him over the pandemic
timeline, he gave us his blessing to use his design for
BIPOC unhoused people and also anyone who is unhoused and
not BIPOC. My friends on the streets in SJ are fed up w/
sweeps. Absolutely fed up. So we set up on an unused piece
of land on the Cut next to the spot where they recently
were swept into...from the North side, back to the South
side. As it turns out, although the plot of land was Parks
land when we set up, it's now the Housing Bureau's land,
supposedly allocated to a new build for low-income
housing. On day 1 of the tarpee build when we installed 2
tarpees, the HB came out to tell us we were trespassing.
We informed them that no matter where houseless people
are, they are trespassing, according to the city. So what?
We also told them that if it's true that this low-income
housing is going to go up for folks who are BIPOC and
were gentrified out of PDX, that we'd leave when the
trucks came to begin the dig, but not before that. It
could take years before the actual dig occurs.
Yesterday, we put up the 4th tarpee. The folks
occupying the tarpees are like new people! Their sense of
self-worth is back. They can stand inside the tall tarpee.
They have built in beds and a built in table. They are
beautiful. And we can move them when or if we have to. The
fence company came yesterday to line out where the huge
fence will be put up. The guy told us that a sweep will
happen in the next 2 weeks sometime. We are not leaving.
This is why we need support. The notion that sweeping
people is a way to "handle" the "situation" is not tenable
for unhoused people. In this case, it's the Housing Bureau
unhousing unhoused people and as we told them on day 1, we
aren't leaving until the trucks come to do the dig. This
can buy us a lot of time which means more stability for
folks in the village.
As of now, we have a doctor on board for our folks in
JBL. He's a friend of mine and he is now the doctor on
call for our people. We are connecting people to services
they are in need of, as they ask for services they want.
The tarpee team and JBL need your support now to help
us stay put until the dig happens. No one knows when that
day will come.
Please reach out to me if you want to help. I'd love to
take you around to meet folks at the camp.
My number is 503-453-9005. Call or text. Or email. Just
a heads up...I dislike communicating by text at length. I
prefer to speak on the phone. Old school. I'm 57.
With love and hope of support...
Could you please explain the Tarpee
Would anyone want to help us with our
Tarpee Village in St Johns?
I love and have been
following group behind this project Cob
Also love how it connects
to Portland where many people are
intrigued by and have explored similar cob
building methods. (traditional methods of
mixed straw, mud, sand construction, often
employing rounded and hand-molded forms,
to create highly insulating, fire-safe,
strong, inexpensive structures.
The City of Portland has been
exceptionally accommodating in allowing
cob building in city code, fairly uniquely
among US cities as far as I understand.
There are cob structures in various places
around town, such as a seating/hut area at
Portland State University near the corner
of one building on the East edge of Park
I used to live just a few blocks away from
the location of this "miracle village" in
West Oakland -- which for those unfamiliar
is a distinct area and city council
district near NW corner of Oakland, to the
west of downtown Oakland, that includes
where the Bay Bridge and BART train
tunnels connect San Francisco to the East
Bay. (or, connect the West Bay to Oakland,
as Oaklanders often prefer to say). As
well as major port and military logistics
operations, and container cranes (key
Overall it is a quite amazing environment
as a local civic
group and culture/apparel brand's name
says -- with heavy industry mixed with
old residential, easy hop one stop on BART
train to downtown San Francisco, and a
kind of widespread laboratory of living
and building approaches. It's tragic and
wounded, in ways, such as West Oakland
being entirely redlined and
blight-designated for many decades, from
which it is just now recovering; the huge
scale of homelessness, and terrible
conditions a lot of people are in; and the
widespread displacement of poorer and
minority populations occurring in last
At the same time, as this article
highlights one case of, it's also long
been a very creative, generative, even
joyous and liberatory environment where
all kinds of wide-ranging social and
living, progressive exploration occurs,
and has for 150+ years. West Oakland had a
well-established major Black community
back to the late 19thC, became an
important national center of Black
society, culture, communication because it
was the endpoint of the Transcontinental
railroad, and home base for the International
Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters
a key Black institution. Many of these
porters were able to save money and buy
homes in West Oakland, one of the
relatively few urban areas in the country
where that was possible, and this helped
seed generations of Black community and
West Oakland was a key founding center and
base for the Black Panther Party
and other extraordinary social organizing
movements. Including more recently the Moms
organizing for housing rights, which began
with occupation of a vacant,
investor-owned house on Magnolia Street
under 2 blocks from where I lived.
Apologies for my effusion -- the area
around the village featured in Guardian
article means a lot of time, gives me a
lot of ongoing inspiration and food for
thought though I haven't been there in
person for 2.5 years. I am currently
putting together an essay / chapter about
West Oakland shelter/housing explorations,
for the Village Buildings project (see: villagebuildings.housing.wiki
and may visit and stay there in the next
few weeks on a trip to California.
Anyway, great article, thank you Angie for
May 11, 2021 at 5:27 AM Angie Gilbert
Tucked under a highway
overpass in West Oakland, just beyond
a graveyard of charred cars and dumped
debris, lies an unexpected refuge.
There’s a collection of beautiful,
small structures built from foraged
materials. There’s a hot shower, a
fully stocked kitchen and health
clinic. There’s a free ...
View the article.
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Co-founder, Critical Diversity
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