United We Tramp: How Santa Ana's Homeless Rose Up

United We Tramp: How Santa Ana's Homeless Rose Up
Photo: Josue Rivas | Design: Dustin Ames

On a steamy morning in mid-May, an urgent cry pierces the sleepy languor of Orange County's Civic Center in Santa Ana.

One of the burdens of being homeless is having to keep all of your worldly possessions with you at all times; otherwise, you risk losing them to theft or confiscation. When you're homeless, your stuff becomes an anchor.

"Massimo! The truck!"

A city parks and recreation truck slowly makes its way along a paved walkway between Broadway and Ross Street, where the homeless live.

Massimo Marini immediately moves toward it, with me in pursuit. He comes to a bench under which somebody has stashed four Hefty bags full of clothing and other personal items. As the truck passes, Marini stands over the bags, protecting them, ready to claim ownership if asked. At Marini's instruction, I do the same at the next bench down. These are my belongings, I am to say, if asked by one of the police officers who accompany the truck on its mission to confiscate untended stuff.

Our decoy works. We are not questioned. The truck slowly passes by the benches we have staked out.

Santa Ana police officers Joe Castellanos and Salvador Lopez walk beneath the trees next to the county's Hall of Finance, asking homeless people who owns what. They point to a neatly stacked set of cases and bed rolls propped against a tree trunk. "Whose is that?"

Nobody answers.

Kevin Eaton, a parks department employee, gets down from the truck and begins tagging the belongings with red Post-its, noting the date and the location. With the help of the officers, he loads the items onto the truck. They will be held for 90 days, during which time they can be retrieved by their owner(s).

Marini walks with the officers, occasionally interjecting himself into their conversations with the homeless. The officers brush him off: "I'm not talking to you, Massimo." He sticks with them, anyway. Later, he chats with Lopez about the possibility of letting the homeless use a shuttered bus terminal at the corner of Ross Street and Santa Ana Boulevard as a place to store their belongings.

Lopez says it'll take money. Where will that money come from?

Marini tosses out the name of a nonprofit that runs a storage center for the homeless in Anaheim.

They got money? Lopez wants to know.

They have donors, Marini replies.

When the officers arrive at a pile of stuff belonging to a man known as Termite, Marini persuades them not to take it. Termite is at a court-ordered drug class in Irvine, Marini says, and can't be in two places at once.

"Massimo says to leave this stuff," Castellanos tells Eaton. Then he orders Marini to make sure Termite's stuff looks neat.

*     *     *

One of the burdens of being homeless is having to keep all of your worldly possessions with you at all times; otherwise, you risk losing them to theft or confiscation. When you're homeless, your stuff becomes an anchor.

In the absence of any city-approved, permanent solution to the problem of having to keep all their possessions with them at all times, a group of homeless in the Civic Center have created a temporary one: people put their bags together, then a few stand watch while others are free to go about unencumbered. Besides its functional value, this "homeless defense storage center" is intended as a provocation, as the police insist that anyone who leaves the immediate vicinity has "abandoned" their property, thus subjecting it to confiscation.

Speaking to the Santa Ana City Council in June, Civic Center Roundtable member BrizyMae Gonzalez spells it the concern clearly: "We don't go to your home. We don't impound your stuff . . . You're doing that to us."

Civic Center Roundtable was launched by Marini in January, shortly after he moved out of the Catholic Worker house in Santa Ana. I met Marini a few years ago, during the early days of the Occupy movement. Last December, I ran into him again when I stopped by the Catholic Worker house to talk to Dwight Smith, the patron saint of Orange County homeless activists. Smith had just come out of surgery and wasn't getting around very well, so that night, I walked through the Civic Center with Marini and was impressed by how people came out of the shadows to tell him their latest problems, from being ticketed for violating Santa Ana's no-camping ordinance to getting tossed out of the county's Public Law Library while trying to charge a cell phone's battery.

Marini gave each person his full attention. They trusted Marini, which gave him the credibility to launch the Roundtable a month later. "He's doing things now that are far more radical than we are," Smith says. "My hat's off to him. I can't wait to see what he does next. . . . If I were younger, I'd like to think I'd be out there with him."

When I saw him in December, Marini was going through a dark night of the soul. His childhood Catholicism, the foundation of his activism on behalf of the poor, wasn't making sense to him anymore. He was in a sullen mood, and he was trying to find new reasons to go on with his work on behalf of society's most marginalized.

I prattled blithely about my own journey in and (mostly) out of this ancient tradition, Catholicism, passed down by my ancestors. I tried to articulate the value I found in the myth and tradition, without, I suggested, the need for literal belief. Marini listened impatiently. He was having none of my half-baked bullshit.

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73 comments
Tommyray
Tommyray

Sadly they soon become so burned out and weak from living on the streets they can't work, sickness soon follows,

If I see a person in the pain and they say yes" I need a beer" I'll help no judgment just a Positive statment.

fishwithoutbicycle
fishwithoutbicycle topcommenter

"When you see a hand that's held out toward you,
Give it some love, some day it may be you..."

Janis Joplin

daleandersen
daleandersen

Bullshit article, Andrew Baby.


First of all, you give your homeless pals all the snappy comebacks, like they're the smart ones or something. If they're so smart, how come they're so poor and how come they smell like someone's rectum?


And you report there's so much donated food in Santa Ana, the bums are tossing it in the trash. WTF! I pick up food for the homeless every week and the stuff I pick up, while it's past its expiration date,, is primo and delicious. You really bummed me out, asshole!

ltpar
ltpar topcommenter

Parks are for kids and families, not homeless junkies and alcoholics.  Get the latter off the streets and into some sort of supervised environment  that protects both them and the kids.  

JGlanton
JGlanton topcommenter

There's nothing quite like riding a bike down the Santa Ana River Trail on a hot day breathing hard and getting a big lungful of stench rising from the homeless camp excrement pile. I recommend that the OCWeekly scribblers take their laptops to sit among the shit rocks and compose their stories with the proper olfactory relish.

carpetbagger
carpetbagger

This is some creative writing, but what's missing is what kind of soda pop they drink and what kind of toothpaste they use!

carpetbagger
carpetbagger

This is some creative writing, but what's missing is what kind of soda pop they drink and what kind of toothpaste they use!

Igmar Rodas
Igmar Rodas

Well OC Weekly Article came out and my name is mentioned in it. Good, but to all you readers, my Company SAPD is the one lending support (Pro-Bono) to the Civic Center Roundtable/ Homeless Community at Civic. I'm not a participant as stated in the article by the Author of this story. Just for Clarification. SAPD - Stop Abusing People's Derechos #SAPD

downtownbrown
downtownbrown

Any place the hopeless congregate is going to be trashed out.  It's their way of expressing rage at our evil society that has pushed, pushed I say, them into homelessness.  If they are upset that their bags of garbage are thrown away, I say keep your works and your gear in a safe place.  That way when you need to "get well", your drugs will be safe.  Your welcome.

downtownbrown
downtownbrown

@daleandersen The hopeless, because they a re poor, are above reproach, and are given carte blanche to inhabit our streets, urinate and defecate in them if they choose, and always bask in the adulation of the "progressives".  Its our cross to bear that they chose drugs and alcohol over housing.  Feel guilty sheltered citizens, you are responsible for their life choices.  Pay up.

nschou1
nschou1 moderator editor

@daleandersen Sorry, but this is a dumb comment. Sure, homeless people are inconvenient to you, and to society in general. On the other hand, losing your job and house plus a few other bad turns could put your bad self out on the street with these folks. Wouldn't that suck? Don't risk bad karma, brother.

daleandersen
daleandersen

@nschou1 I didn't say they're inconvenient, girly man. I said that your pal, Andrew, gave them all the clever lines and snappy comebacks in his lame article, making them out to be smart and cool. But they're not. They're poor and sad and they smell. Blame Andrew, not me...

daleandersen
daleandersen

Ooooh, struck a nerve. The big bad writer's pissed.


If you can't take criticism, maybe you're in the wrong business, petunia...

sweetliberty17761776
sweetliberty17761776 topcommenter

@fishwithoutbicycle @downtownbrown


Fish


as stated before


stop the mother teresea act


nothing stated by dt was hateful


its hateful to defend bad or wrong acts


and only doing so to assuage your own guilt


the homeless need real help


that starts in the form of honesty / tough love



fishwithoutbicycle
fishwithoutbicycle topcommenter

@sweetliberty17761776 @fishwithoutbicycle @downtownbrown

How is it not hateful to proclaim that all homeless people are dirty drug addicts?

downtownbrown
downtownbrown

@fishwithoutbicycle How is it helpful to gloss over the fact that drug abuse is the LEADING cause of death and a huge contributor to negative behaviors committed by the hopeless?  Those who refuse drugs and alcohol are much more able to get themselves out of homelessness.  Those who continue to use drugs and alcohol while homeless are sure to be a big drain on govt/H&S/LEO resources and a PITA for everyone else.


How is it helpful to enable the homeless life choices?


sweetliberty17761776
sweetliberty17761776 topcommenter

@bill86 @sweetliberty17761776


for the s&m crowd its something else


but start with honesty


and if they choose to live on the street then they are mentally competent and can be forced to  vacate the streets and taken nicely into a "home" or forced into a jail


IF they are not competent , then of course they must be taken to a home



that home is either of the charitable type ( salvation army etc)


or the tents set up on the over thousands of acres we have in this country



and run not just by prison guards but also people trained in a way ( like hospice people) that is comforting 

fishwithoutbicycle
fishwithoutbicycle topcommenter

@fishingblues 

"Loony liberal"? After you preach to me of being judgmental. ::rolls eyes::


But go ahead and pick on me, not the jerk hating on the homeless...

fishingblues
fishingblues topcommenter

@fishwithoutbicycle @fishingblues


I simply asked a question.  If you place yourself into that category, don't blame others for seeing you that way.


I didn't see anyone "hating" anything.  By the way, "hating" is another word hijacked by the liberal loons and now used as a pejorative.  


I would also have your eyes checked.  You seem to roll them a lot.  

fishingblues
fishingblues topcommenter

@fishwithoutbicycle 

You're a girl aren't you?  Guys just don't write stuff like that.  That is in no way meant to be a slam, simply an observation.  Personally, I like girls.  

fishwithoutbicycle
fishwithoutbicycle topcommenter

@fishingblues @fishwithoutbicycle 

Sorry, but saying all the homeless are essentially a bunch of smelly derelicts IS judgmental and hateful. And If you expect me to apologize for being angry at someone who feels that way you're going to wait forever. And I fail to see how showing compassion for your fellow human beings is some kind of "liberal conspiracy". Give me a break.

fishingblues
fishingblues topcommenter

@fishwithoutbicycle @fishingblues


Your reading comprehension skills need some work.  Where did you come up with "liberal conspiracy" again?  


I believe dale was simply objecting to what he considered to be biased reporting.  

fishingblues
fishingblues topcommenter

@fishwithoutbicycle @fishingblues


Well I meant old lady.  Is that better?


Ah my unhappy, my unlucky
And my little, oh, girl blue.
I know you're unhappy,
Ooh ah, honey I know,
Baby I know just how you feel.


JJ  

fishingblues
fishingblues topcommenter

@fishwithoutbicycle @fishingblues


insulting you?  Dr. Freud would be concerned with your feelings of persecution.


And if I understand you correctly........


You call yourself an insufferable bitch and then pat yourself on the back claiming  to have just complimented yourself.  


Wow, your psychosis runs deep.  Dr. Freud will need to do some research.  


Liberalism makes people crazy.  

fishwithoutbicycle
fishwithoutbicycle topcommenter

@fishingblues @fishwithoutbicycle 

Spare me that "you need mental help" crap. Are you a psychologist? No? Then shut the hell up. Besides, Freud's theories have been widely discredited and no psychologist worth their salt would give them a second thought. 

fishingblues
fishingblues topcommenter

@fishwithoutbicycle


"Spare me that "you need mental help" crap."  whined the schizophrenic.


Since you ask and answer your own questions, I'm wondering how you think you know what my degrees are in?  Could that be delusions of grandeur? 


I believe Dr Freud is still highly regarded among psychoanalytical theorists.   I'm a behaviorist myself.   

fishingblues
fishingblues topcommenter

@fishwithoutbicycle 


I don't give a shit if you agree with me.  In fact, you would be quite boring if you did.  I simply like to poke at smug, self-deluded, arrogant, self-important, ill-informed, self-righteous loopy liberal loons.  The fact that you are a flaming feminist is bonus time.  

fishingblues
fishingblues topcommenter

@fishwithoutbicycle @fishingblues


You will obviously just find find another pointless argument simply because you like to argue.  


Or are you attempting to insinuate that it is all now beneath you?  

 
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