THE BARRACKS AND FAIRHAVEN by Chris Damitio
The whole housing thing in Fairhaven is somewhat chaotic right now. Sherry Jubilo is still sitting in the Barracks, waiting for bulldozers to come in and tear em down. She turned down $10,500 to move out of a building she was renting. That confused me and a lot of other people. When I heard that this would be the week she was served papers I thought it was high time I visited the barracks and talked with her. At first when I walked up she thought I was there to give her the eviction notice. When I told her I was B’hamblin’ Man she looked relieved. She offered me a glass of lemonade and we began to talk. Over the course of an hour and a half, I heard a lot of what I’ve read in the paper and heard on the radio…and a lot I haven’t. Under the Happy Valley plan, the city bought the lot behind the current firestation so that the station could be expanded. After the controversial Chuckanut Ridge Development was okayed the Happy Valley plan was scrapped. Developers decided the need for a new firestation would be a good excuse to “ rid a high crime area of some problem housing” , a ridiculous description. In fact, no permission or permit for the fire station has been approved yet. The Land Trust figured out a way to build the proposed fire station and save the low rent barracks. This plan could’ve torn down Sherry’s unit. To quote Sherry
“ I would rather of had them tear my unit down and save this community” .
Instead the city decided some, and then all of the barracks must go. The Land Trust’s plan would’ve given the city the land for free and kept low income housing available, instead, the city has spent nearly 3/4 of a million dollars to pay the former tenants cash, get relocation assisstance, and buy the land. The fire station hasn’t even been started yet. The lot behind the current station remains unused. I asked Sherry what she was trying to accomplish.
“ I would like the next time the city is looking for a piece of land that they would remember how difficult this has been and choose the vacant lot.” .
“These places are history for sure,” I said, “ Where will you go? Will you live in your car?”
No she has a friend she will stay with. Will she pay the backrent, if the city demands it?
“ That’s the most confusing part to me” she said “ The city should be thanking me. They offered to pay me $10,500 and I refused. They say I owe them $2,300. That means subtracting what I owe, I’ve saved the taxpayers $8200 !!”
“Why do you stay?”
“Staying here is a way of keeping the conversation going. If the city had $300,000 to spend, it shouldn’t of been given to us
We talked a bit longer and I left with a different opinion than I arrived with. Here it is: She’s crazy for not taking the $10,500. That could of been two years rent paid in a decent place. Now she’ll have to find a way to pay the extra rent she has been forced into. She has allowed a dream to take precedence over the cold reality we live in. Supply and demand, theres more people all the time, they need places to live, rent goes up, people who are brave enough to live outside the system- outside of the 9 to 5 grind get screwed. You have to have a certain moral courage to stand up for what you believe in, even if it means getting screwed by a burrough of a city that is consistantly squeezing the art, music, and the free thinking culture which defined it out of existance. More tract housing is an ugly idea, but who knows,, they may tear down the barracks use the existing station as recommended by the Happy Valley Plan, sell the barracks to a greedy slumlord, build a huge, ugly, apartment complex on the site of the present barracks, and say “Oops!” . I am so sick of these penny pinching tight wad rich guys ruining our neighborhoods with shoddily built apartment complexes that they charge good working people too much to live in. They destroy the spirit of a neighborhood or town by upping the rent on artistic enterprises. By Sherry Jubilo’s estimate roughly a quarter of the 200 people she has known who lived at the Barracks, were artists or musicians. You never know, Picasso may work for the park service, Mozart might work construction, and Hemingway could be writing commercials for radio. We don’t really let people do their thing. Our society does not encourage the artistic, unless it is in the time after your 9 to 5 job at walmart ( its not capitalized intentionally) . No, our society encourages us to halfway build parking garages on the backsides of historic buildings, build view obstructing hotels and leave them closed, and drive from the county to work in town. Face it, we might as well have world war III (Nostradamus says it will start in July of 1999 and last 7 months, right thru Y2K.)
Bellinghamblin Man by Chris Damitio
Okay, here is what you overwhelmingly asked for. Bellinghamblin’ Man. I like it, and it sounds like most of you do too. Other suggestions included “Hamster Beat” ( too close to Hamster, one of our local ‘zines), Yo Mama, and Meattime ( I can’t really explain that one). Surprisingly, quite of few people suggested I ditch hatemail….no way. Your letters are important to me.
Change is the only constant.The refugees in Kosovo are going through constant change. Their houses have been burned, their lives have been suddenly destroyed. Imagine having everything taken from you by the government. First they come into your town, then you get fired from the job, years of education, training , and work..poof…no more. They go door to door, moving the men out of town, possibly for execution, women and children are shipped out separately. You’ve heard rumors of genocide, rape camps, and torture. You pack up, throw the bare essentials into rucksacks or whatever you have…you flee…hoping to make it to the border. There’s no time to explain to the kids that the pets can’t come, your house will probably get burned down with almost everything in it. You make it to the border….the Macedonians won’t let you cross, finally with your last stash of cash, you get the family across. You sit with close to a million other refugees…you’re hungry…you have nothing….you don’t know where you will go or what you will do. That is change. It’s happening, and its already happened.
It amazes me that as Americans, we haven’t opened up our arms to ALL of these people. What happened to “Give us your poor, your tired, your hungry” ? These people are exactly that. Not through choice, and not through laziness. They are poor, tired, and hungry because they’re government has turned on them. They have nowhere to go. Shouldn’t we make room for them? I, for one, would like to volunteer to take in a couple of Kosovars. I’m far from rich, but since I live in America, my standard of living is at least five times as high as most of the world. There would be an adjustment on each side. I wouldn’t be going out to eat in fancy pizza joints anymore and they wouldn’t be starving in a severely crowded refugee camp. We should make room in our homes for these people. With a little bit of human kindness, they will learn English ( if they don’t already know it), and find jobs. These are people like you and me, but in much worse situations. Our country has greatly benefited from occasional migrations of new people.
I hear many people say “ Lets take care of Americas homeless before we take on any new responsibility” . That’s a great idea, but these people aren’t homeless. They’re refugees. In my experience most homeless people are homeless by choice. They don’t want to exist within the system. The Kosavars have been kicked out of the system.