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Indybay Feature
A Plea for Help from the County's Benchland Containment Camp
by Greg Bengston (posted by Norse) (gregorybengtson [at]
Friday Oct 2nd, 2020 11:11 AM
I received the following letter earlier this week immediately before our Homeless United for Friendship & Freedom (Greg's a member). I'm forwarding it for community info and in response to his wishes.
From: Greg Bengtson
Sent: Tuesday, September 29, 2020 12:09 PM
To: Robert Norse ; ...
Subject: Benchlands camp closing by October 31

They have not created a secondary camp for us, not really given us alternatives to consider, which are all the basic song and dance about trying shelters and having a housing assessment done ( to tell us we can't afford to live where we live. We had just started to settle in after we had to totally move our tents around for tree trimming, and then move everything back more or less, since the county had moved us onto land a few yards away which the city wanted us off of.

So we were living in the park in April, then cops and rangers gave us 3 hours to be herded into a fenced-in area which was still unofficial but gave us immunity to camping tickets. Only half the camp could fit.

Then we got settled in there for a couple months and we were told we had to move in to a much smaller camp primarily for the medically vulnerable, so many people didn't bother to sign up for the list. We were given two days notice...yet the materials and operational implementation had to have been worked on by the City and County at least a week to 10 days before we were told. Very dismissive of our lives and plans we try to work on to improve them. Shameful.

Turned out there was really no distinguishing done on entry date and all types of people moved in, but again less than half. We were given nice big tents and shade canopies, 3 meals a day, a large contingent of staff on each shift...more support than we really needed. Spreading funds could help more people, or for a longer time, or build in a cash reserve for transitioning to new living arrangements at the inevitable rainy season closure.

It was weird having enough time to decompress and relax from defensive combat mode every day, and suddenly people started doing things. Getting a job. Taking classes. Going into rehab. Getting in touch with estranged family. Addressing neglected health issues, many of which need time to implement and complete, not to mention the time it had taken for us to realize that there really was possibility for our lives, that we didn't have to continually run around looking for food and a safe place to sleep.

We got healthier, eating well on a dependable schedule, decreasing drinking and drug use often used to cover fear or boredom or hopelessness. We really started to build some social support networks, as well as just make some new friends.

We got along really well with staff, for the most part, and that was a nice change instead of being looked down on and having constant friction where we had to be always on the defensive and never knowing what random hassle was coming our way.

Now we all have a sick feeling and many, myself included, are depressed. Just as other encampments are being closed as well, and the cold rainy season is approaching. It's as if someone was trying to extinguish us. Or at least look the other way as we disappear into the shadows.

Please forward to anyone who might be interested as we are still hopeful some solution can be found.


Greg Bengtson

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