Inti Gonzalez at Rally & Art Action at California State Capitol

Speech by Inti Gonzalez, Youth Organizer of Tiny Village Spirit, given at Rally & Art Action to end homelessness at California State Capitol. 550 blessing fence planks that will later be used for the tiny house village project located in Richmond were leaned on the building. The event was co-sponsored by six organizations including Food not Bombs and Union of the Homeless. 

The current war in Gaza has taught me so much about myself and about our society. It helped me understand what a home is to me and the destructive nature of colonization and situations alike.
Since America’s founding it has been at war 93% of the time. As a country our history is riddled with colonizing behavior within and outside of our borders. America itself was born from the colonization of this land from the Native Americans. To this day they are the second most likely to experience homelessness, with African Americans being the first. 

I left my family home in 2021 to be a caretaker in exchange for housing in Richmond. I knew the housing was unstable since anyday the woman I was caring for could pass. After a year I started having confrontations with the woman’s daughter. I couldn’t go back to my family home, I’d rather live on the streets.
I needed more time to find affordable housing. So I ended up moving to a cold garage on the secluded hills of El Sobrante. I spent six months there. Six months as legally homeless. What a stressful time that was, and I wasn’t even experiencing the worst of it. Not even close.

Currently I live in a warehouse in Oakland that is housing 200 artists, musicians, and circus performers. I see art along every hallway. I feel the culture of the East Bay in my home and the people who live in it. It reminds me of the stories I would hear about what the Bay used to be like. The music and creativity, the community and culture.
My home is one of the last affordable housing communities in the area. There were many more just a few years ago but they got shut down.
I love my home, my community. I love this city. Sadly, Oakland often feels like a forgotten place, which segregation assisted greatly with. It’s easier to colonize and abuse and pretend a problem doesn’t exist when borders of any kind, invisible or not, exist. I see the corruption and hardship everyday but I can tell that the beautiful people of Oakland are what keep it alive. But even they are leaving too, the great majority of them not by choice. Lack of affordable housing continues to be the leading cause of homelessness. If they don’t leave then they will be forced to the streets. An extremely stressful and dangerous environment that leads many to drugs and crime, which inturn leads them to death or imprisonment.
The US accounts for 25% of the world’s total prison population. We have by far the highest incarceration rate in the world, currently holding two million people. Prison is much worse than being homeless, and yet we have twice as many imprisoned people than we do homeless. African Americans and Native Americans being the largest incarcerated groups per person. 

Even in what many would call a stable home I still feel the instability. Every time a unit empties, which usually houses 3 to 6 people, the landlords are allowed to renovate it and bring the rent up to unaffordable value. Covid managed to wipe out a lot of my building neighbors, and still continues to do so to this day. A big reason is because of the overwhelming rent debts. 

I went to the moving sale of one of my neighbors. What a nice and creative person he was. Being the only one in a four room unit he owed $30,000. He had trouble with his work, like many, and trouble finding tenants to help pay the rent. Difficulty sustaining units financially when multiple people move out is a very real threat.
Two women came in and bought a table saw for their woodworking projects. They told us how they were also moving out since they had a rent debt of $80,000.
Keep in mind that this is just one of a variety of tools being used to drive us out.
These situations make me fear that my home may soon be next.

My homeless neighbor has been trying with no success to find affordable housing for him and his son.
I had walked past a trailer with a mother of three kids, the youngest one had got to be around 4.
I had gone and visited my other homeless neighbor and saw her with a pained look on her face. She had just lost another relative to drugs.
I gave a hug to a man who wept because he had just gotten out of prison and had nowhere to go, no money for food, and had been previously dealing with family and drug issues.

What I’m talking about is really just a small fraction of the injustice that happens at our hands, in our country and all the counties we have affected and continue to affect.

So I genuinely ask, what are we doing wrong? If all the world’s biggest “criminals” can do, literally, whatever they want because of their wealth? Can rob us of all that we have, including our lives? And continue to do so since our country began?

How can this happen when the great majority of us do not want this?
We need to question the core issue of this problem to help not just eliminate homelessness but all other legally supported human injustices, because really it’s all coming from the same place.
Only together can we solve any and every world problem. The whole of our sum is greater than its parts. 

I don’t know how you feel, but I want to see a real change in my lifetime, and I believe it will happen and I will fight till it does – for all our fellow human brothers and sisters, no matter the gender, pigment of skin and culture, no matter the distance and borders that seems to separate us.

What is a home?
A home is a place that I can call my own.
A place where I can be without the fear of removal.
A place for my family and friends and my community to take root and to flourish.
A place where I know that as generation after generation comes along,
we will never have to be forcefully separated or displaced.
Only then will I call it my true home.

Thank you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *