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Living on the Edge of Silicon Valley

Katherine Bock  |  Issue: April | May 2015
homeless encampment

Grace Hilliard attempts to salvage her belongings during her eviction from the “Jungle.” A homeless encampment in San Jose, CA destroyed by the city. One tenth of one percent of Silicon Valley’s corporate cash reserves would end homelessness here forever.
PHOTO: Sandy Perry


SAN JOSE, CA — It is clear to we who struggle to live and work in San Jose that the high tech industry we helped build no longer has any use for us.  Although we once assembled mother boards in our homes and worked in computer component factories, we, the working class of San Jose, have become redundant.  These jobs were off-shored or robotized.   Even security guards at Apple, Google, Facebook, etc, must fight hard for living wages.

The Low-Income Self-Help Center’s Stone Soup Dinner and “Living on the Edge of Silicon Valley,” a People’s Movement Assembly, was full to bursting with children, music, spoken word, great food and a lot of love.   We gathered to share our stories of struggle and survival—and to plan a better world and how to win it.

Shirley Stager, nearing retirement age, testified, “I’m working two jobs, seven days a week, and still struggling to make it. Since my son lost his place and can’t find another, he is staying with me with his baby son even though he is working full-time—it’s a crowded, stressful situation.  Many in my neighborhood have three generations living in their small condos, also causing overcrowding and tension.”  Joy Miller shared that people are renting couches and floors in shifts. Barbara Daniels told of “sleeping in her car, not living in it,” working part-time jobs and constantly updating her resume seeking to return to her profession. She talked of keeping folded dollars handy to give to others who need help.

Saline Chandler introduced her spoken word performance by talking of finding herself homeless in the break of her school year at San Jose State University—wondering if her fellow students knew—and how her experience deepened her understanding of sociology.

Grace talked about losing her community and everything she had when the Jungle, the largest homeless encampment in the U.S., was tossed and fenced in December. Now we all see people chased out of every encampment they try to create.

We know that the few of us who have housing subsidies are in danger.  We fear that more low-income mobile home parks and neighborhoods could be razed and gentrified. Average market rents are $2500. We are forced to continually fight for shrinking social services and depend on food pantries/kitchens to eat.  We vigilantly seek programs for our children, to prepare them for a good life and not to be fodder for the violent forces of the corporate military/police complex.

Together we creatively re-visioned society around the values we want and the institutions needed for them to exist—a society that throws nobody away, which values caring, sharing and humility and assures that the plenty that exists is shared by all  ̶  in which our work is valued and contributes to the common good, and we all receive a basic livable income, housing, free education, free and accessible healthcare, transportation and a living planet.  And time for art, dancing, laughter, and joy! We know to win this new society we must unite across movements and fight for a political party that represents us, the people.

Join us June 24-27 in San Jose, CA at the US Social Forum. Contact lowincomeseflhelp@sbcglobal.net or ussocialforum.net/

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