Many times now, I have founded groups or worked with groups which produce care packages for unhoused people. The same is true for Moxie, one of the three co-leads for BWB/SF.
These care package groups usually include a few essentials in a plastic bag which can quickly and easily be handed to unhoused people. As part of co-founding the first bay area chapter of Burners Without Borders, one of the initial projects we wanted to do is launch a new care packages group in the bay area and then branch out into multiple subgroups to serve a larger area.
Because of covid, all of our projects were put on hold as we refactor and struggle personally to adapt to this year’s rapidly changing conditions and rapidly overlapping disasters.
Changes This Time
We think this project can safely go ahead with a few simple changes.
First, the items in the care packages will need to be updated to reflect the current disasters, namely smoke and covid.
Second, the way we build the care packages needs to change. Since we can’t gather together, we will need to assemble the packages separately. This feels different to many of the people I’ve talked to, but really it’s not different. In the past, we have always had each person bring maybe a hundred of one item (ie water bottles) and then everyone mixes their items together into all the bags, and finally we all take a small portion of the completed bags. The only difference now is that we will simply each buy all the items for a smaller number of bags. The amount we each pay will be about the same or maybe even less.
Third, we need to safely distribute the bags. I have tried several methods and it’s actually very easy to do this. Simply approach the person and set the bag down a safe distance away, explaining that it contains food and water for them, and then walk away. It’s not as awkward or uncomfortable as it sounds, and based on the feedback from many past partners, this will probably feel even more comfortable for them than actually handing the bags to people.
I’m doing a test run to see how cheaply I can put the bags together. Then we will make adjustments before launching the larger next-phase of the project. Stay tuned for Zoom link and other details. Please use the form at the bottom of this page to sign up if you’d like to be invited and informed as more details come out about this project!
Check out the longer post on my blog including the work I’m doing to test small individual batches of care packages and what items I’ve found to include.
AS BURNING MAN TAKES NEW SHAPE FOR 2020, BAY AREA BURNERS GET BEHIND SOS VILLAGES COVID-19 PROPOSAL FOR SF
Burners without Borders SF/Bay Area Working Group partners with Saint Francis Homelessness Challenge on a proposal to immediately activate SOS Villages on 2 public-owned sites
San Francisco, CA —Saint Francis Homelessness Challenge (SFHC) is thrilled to announce that Burners without Borders SF/Bay Area Working Group is throwing their support behind SFHC’s COVID-19 related-proposals to the City for “SOS Villages”—Safe organized spaces of belonging, shared agreements, and stewardship to end the crisis conditions of street homelessness.
On April 10 2020, Burning Man Project leadership officially announced their decision to transition the annual desert festival to a virtual global experience in light of the global pandemic. Members of the SF/Bay Area Working Group for Burners without Borders (BWB SF)— a grassroots, community leadership program whose goal is to unlock the creativity of local communities to solve problems that bring about meaningful change—are already organizing both locally and internationally in response to COVID-19. In addition to supporting SFHC’s specific proposal to activate SOS Villages in San Francisco—with a readiness to participate in work days and organizing for SOS Villages if the green light is given by the City—current efforts from Bay Area Burners include resource deliveries and mask making.
SFHC and BWB SF seek to partner with the Mayor, District Supervisors, and a local network of Burners, SFHC Stewards (including residents currently/formerly experiencing homelessness), community-based organizations, community leaders, and local businesses to immediately activate two or more underutilized publicly-owned sites with SOS Villages.
Two weeks ago on April 6, 2020, SFHC sent in a proposal to Mayor Breed and the Board of Supervisors, “offer[ing] up our organization’s resources and expertise to serve our most vulnerable residents during this crisis upon a crisis.” SFHC’s proposal identified two public-owned sites that are uniquely viable for SOS Villages, since they have already been designated for emergency shelter response.
180 Jones, City-owned pre-development site in the Tenderloin: Estimated ability to provide safe and organized lodging to between 15-30 residents with tents/cabins.
Iowa and 23rd, “Gear Park”, CalTrans land Estimated ability to provide safe and organized lodging to between 25-100 residents with tents/cabins.
SFHC Founder/Director Amy Farah Weiss commented on the partnership with BWB SF:“ With their passion for social justice, ecological innovation and communal off-grid living, Burners Without Borders are ideal local partners to join SFHC in the planning, building, and operations of SOS Villages for neighbors in need of a place to belong ASAP”.
Sara Nicole Glass, a co-leader of the BWB SF Working Group, states: “Nobody wants to go back to that desert to heal and celebrate more than the burners right now, but we know in our hearts cancelling is the right thing to do. WE have to help the world HEAL, not just ourselves, but every person. That’s what Radical Inclusion, Civic Responsibility and Gifting is all about, after all.” “It would be wonderful to see this proposal move forward and provide local Burners with the chance to deepen our stewardship relationship to Gear Park. Our Community Events team has done annual clean up days at that site in the past and many Burners have strong connections to the Dogpatch neighborhood”, said Christopher Breedlove—Head of Burners Without Borders at the SF-based Burning Man Project.
Since 2015, San Francisco-based SFHC, a fiscally sponsored project of Intersection for the Arts, has been developing the SOS Policy and Operations Toolkit to provide Bay Area and California municipalities with a code-complaint and community-integrated emergency shelter response framework. In addition to the COVID-19 related proposals, SFHC provided direct service support of sanitation, organizing, and advocacy for 3 large Mission Bay encampments from 2016-2018, piloted an SOS Village from 2017-2018 at the Impact Hub SF Mission location, and submitted a proposal for an SOS Village at 180 Jones in 2019 via the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development.
We have been invited to do fundraising at Wood Street Collective for two reasons. Firstly, Wood Street believes that bringing people there to meet them will increase the community’s empathy and connections to the people living on the land. Secondly, we need to raise funds to build micro-homes and assemble care packages.
We are looking for people who want to work on this and other fund raising events we will need to throw in order to accomplish the projects we are all so excited about!
Even in the world’s wealthiest city, there are many basic needs which go unmet when a person is unhoused. One of the most fundamental unmet needs is simple safety from exposure. Hundreds of unhoused people die on the streets of San Francisco every year. According to UCSF, exposure is one of the most common causes of death.
This project is focused on providing safety from exposure. We are building micro-homes to give to unhoused people in order to protect them from exposure and help them stay warm. We also have other projects focused on helping unhoused people meet their needs for many basic supplies.
We have already talked about two important design considerations. The micro-homes need wheels so they are harder for the police to steal. Should people be expected to push them on casters? Should they work like a wagon? What about a bicycle trailer?
The shelters also need to be insulated to help people stay warm and safe from exposure.
In order for us to make enough of these to have a meaningful impact on the problem, the micro-homes need to be durable and affordable to produce.
Sustainability is another critical part of this project. If we can’t keep doing what we’re doing, then we’re not going to make a dent in this problem. We want to try to use recycled material whenever possible.
What Have Others Tried
Artists and innovators are already building micro-homes on wheels in the bay area. The saga of artist Greg Kloehn has led to dozens of wheeled micro-homes for the unhoused being built right here in Oakland. This is the same artist who made the homes shown at the top of the page. Kloehn estimates that his wheeled micro-homes cost an average of around $30-$50 to build. This story highlights the challenges we will face in dealing with a corrupt system that’s working against not just the unhoused, but also against those who want to help them.
There are also examples where formerly unhoused people have turned their attention to building micro-homes on wheels for those who are still unhoused, as Gary Pickering has done. It makes sense. As in the first example, Gary is using recycled materials to produce these wagon-style, Utah micro-homes.
Here is an example of a group in Portland, Oregon that did basically exactly what we are trying to do with BWB/SF. They not only built wheeled micro-homes, but also put together care packages, and they did it all with a gofundme! These are definitely people we will need to network with!
Here is another design from the same Portland, Oregon group as the previous image.
This one is called the “Warmpod.” It’s not on wheels but it looks like it wouldn’t be hard to add them. I added this one because I liked how simple it is. In particular, I like the simple way the windows are built by simply bolting a piece of plexi over an opening. This design seems to have a lot of potential but offers a simple and high-density solution. A lot of these could line up next to each other and provide basic shelter to a lot of people in a small area.
This design from Paul Elkins might need a bit more insulation if it’s going to live in the Bay Area instead of on Playa, but it raises a good point. Many unhoused people have bikes, and we should keep that in mind. Many of the designs I’ve shown so far are either built like a wagon or could be adapted to work like a wagon. If we can find an easy way of attaching them to bikes, then we could make it much easier for people to move around with them. Something to keep in mind.
Check out how the playa bike camper from Paul has evolved over time.
This is probably out of the scope of this project, but I think it serves as a great exercise for thinking outside the box on this problem. For example, why not include a small $10 solar panel so they can charge their devices and hang some fairy lights inside?
Now that’s what I’m talking about! This is a very simple design which we could definitely pull off. It would be easy to insulate. It attaches to the bike. It has everything a person needs to stay out of the elements while maintaining the freedom to move around.
Here’s another example where a person has made a very simple bicycle trailer camper with a solar panel.
This is an actual product for sale called the QTvan. It raises the point that some people may be differently abled and have accessibility devices like power chairs. We should be sure to keep accessibility in mind and potentially design something like this which will give access to this kind of shelter to a broader range of people. (Though we might leave out the flat screen TV)
Here is a video of the build process for a solar-powered bicycle camper with windows, a door, and lots of space for rest.
This example comes from 1935! Inventor Joseph Dorocke designed this collapsible sleeping space in order to do a bicycle tour of America. It closes up to just four feet long, then expands to its full eight foot size when needed.
My last example is basically a bicycle quadrayurt. Designed by Brian Campbell, this enormous bicycle trailer has plenty of room to sleep and stays warm with radiant barrier panels just like a hexayurt.
Check out this link for lots of other bicycle camper designs.
What Do You Think?
Join the conversation on our Facebook group and share your thoughts and inspiration on this and other projects!
We liked the idea of having something other than cash to hand out to people who are homeless in order to be more helpful with less money. We also wanted to start conversations around the project which helped to humanize people who are homeless. This comes in the face of intense prejudice in our communities and stigmatization of people who are homeless as though they are the source of our problems rather than a symptom of our community abandoning its most vulnerable members.
So we decided to make care packages. In this first run, each care package contains;
A Bottle of Water
A Granola Bar
A Ramen Packet
A Feminine Hygiene Product
A Bag of Dog Food For Man’s Best Friend
A Tooth Brush
A Bar of Soap (Special Thanks to Stand Up Placer and Jenny Davidson for donating these!)