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Houselessness in Anisq’Oyo Park

Houselessness in  Anisq’Oyo Park
Brian picked up his tye-dye shirt from the Isla Vista Free Box, crediting the resource for providing him and his friends with clean clothes.

Noe Padilla

Outgoing News Editor

As the sun begins to set on Anisq’Oyo Park, there sits a man playing his guitar. A jolly old man singing his songs, telling stories of his youth, and sharing cigarettes with his buddies. 

Park Resident Bruce enjoys sharing cigarettes with his friends both new and old, while reminiscing on his days as a performer for the Isla Vista community.

His name is Bruce, and at 65-years old, he is houseless. He’s been a resident of Isla Vista (I.V.) since 1991.

Bruce is only one of the many people who live out in Anisq’Oyo Park. Within the park, there is a small community amongst them all. Half seem to be older folks who have been living in I.V. for decades, while the other group is younger.

The idea of homelessness is well known amongst people, and that idea is often layered behind dehumanizing numbers and policy. But when it comes to the idea of houselessness, that’s an issue that doesn’t normally find its way to print.

A younger resident of Anisq’Oyo Park who goes by J.R. illustrated it by the use of his language; “I’m not homeless, this is my home [I.V.]. What I actually am is houseless.” He explained that homelessness is about the problem, but houselessness is about the people.

J.R. is a 37-year-old man who has lived in Isla Vista for most of his life, but only in the past four years has he become homeless. He moved to I.V. when he was 16 to live with his dad.  Although he wouldn’t go much into his past, J.R. did open up how he ended up in the streets.

“Prior to living out here, I was living with my dad. I spent a lot of my time playing games and reading books. I did that till I was 33, my dad wasn’t happy about that,” said J.R.

Although J.R. wouldn’t talk much about himself, he did have things to say about his community. He mentioned how two years ago there was a law put in place that allowed houseless people to sleep in the park. Prior to that law, he said it was common for cops to push them out of the parks and at times use excessive force against them. The worse they have to deal with is cops taking down their tents. “We do our best to follow that rule,” said J.R.

J.R. also spoke about the ever-changing population of the community, “just this year we saw about 20 more people join us.” When asked if the city has tried helping them, J.R. looked puzzled for a moment. He scanned the park counting its other residences and murmured to me, “yeah, I guess they do.”

He mentioned how once in a while, “the lady” comes to talk to the community and tries to help them by offering them spots in shelters, but he was very short on the topic. Instead, he focused on the FOOD NOT BOMBS – Isla Vista organization. 

“I’m not homeless, this is my home [I.V.]. What I actually am is houseless.” -J.R.

FOOD NOT BOMBS is a volunteer group that has actively fed the houseless community over the years. Prior to the pandemic, they ran a kitchen out of the Merton Co-op to service the I.V. community. Now in order to serve the community while practicing social distancing, they bring food and supplies out to the houseless five times a week. 

For all the good that J.R. spoke about, the community is currently mourning over the death of a resident named Barbara.

“She died on Christmas eve,” said Bruce. “Barbara has been out here for 45 years.”

Although J.R. and Bruce wouldn’t elaborate much into who she was they equally grieved her death. They understandably didn’t want to speak in-depth about the members of their community who’d recently passed away; instead, they listed off names of those who’d passed, like Tony and Cohan. Although to most people these will just be names, to them they were family.

Photos by Graeme Jackson | Photo Editor


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