Residents of Creekside Cabins unsure of next steps
With the temporary bridge only up for two days, residents of an RV campground that is being shut down in a state of emergency are ill-equipped to move on.
Residents at Creekside Cabins, an RV park just north of Willits, have been ordered to be off the premises today, due to a public health emergency. An order ratified this week by the Board of Supervisors says anyone on the premises after 5:00 pm Wednesday will face misdemeanor charges.
But many residents have nowhere to go, and their vehicles aren’t in any shape to get them there if they did.
Information about the pending eviction started to come out a week ago, but communications and other services at the park are primitive, according to Janet, who said the power went out the day she had to call an ambulance for her husband.
“The county continually puts their press releases on their Facebook page, expecting all of us to have access to the internet,” she said. “There are maybe five who have access to the internet. We are in a dead zone for cell phones. I use the wi-fi, and calls get dropped constantly. We can’t even call 911 from here.”
Information of all kinds arrives slowly. A boil water notice, dated January 18, is posted all over the grounds. Residents are advised to boil their water or add bleach to it, based on a sample of raw untreated water from one of the wells that took place on December 27th and tested positive for unspecified bacteria.
The county paid a private contractor to install the bridge yesterday morning. It’s scheduled to be removed by 5:00 tonight. With less than two full days to complete the move, none of the trailers had been towed out by 1:00 yesterday afternoon. People were trying to repair vehicles, but many expect to leave most of their belongings behind as they head into an uncertain future.
Woodrow Still is sure he’s being wrongfully evicted. A woman in a truck beside him began to weep as we spoke. The truck runs, but the brakes make a lot of noise.
“It’s not right,” Still insisted. “I don’t know what else to say…They’re breaking the law by saying we only got three days to move out, and not giving us a 90-day notice or anything. It’s not our fault that they can’t get the road fixed, or the bridge fixed. It’s just wrong.”
“This is my home,” wept the woman in the pickup truck. Asked what they were going to do, Still said, “What can we do? What can we do? We can sit here and fight, and get tickets, because I heard they’re having sheriffs come here tomorrow, to make sure people get out.”
“I think they’re trying to scare us,” said the woman. “And it’s working.”
Several residents have gardens, and elaborate outdoor shrines to dead loved ones. Still described some of what he’ll be leaving behind. “It’s a lot of river stones,” he said; “A lot of picking and carrying and packing and placing, and art. It’s art. It’s a shrine to our dead sister. And now we gotta leave it. Because how are we supposed to pack it out? You can’t pack something like that back up.”
A few spaces down, their neighbor Manny has trained a sucker from a bay tree to grow into an archway to the entrance of a postage stamp yard. He may be one of the lucky ones.
“I hope so,” he said, when I asked him if he’d be ready to be out by the next day. “I’ve got people who are supposed to tow me,” he said. “And I got an RV spot that I’m trying to get. So I’ve got to insure this by tomorrow or today.” Asked if he was able to come up with move-in expenses, he said, “I have most of it.”
Randy Feta is confident he’ll find a place in San Francisco, where he and his wife originally come from. He knows just about everything about all his neighbors, and is quick to heap praise and sympathy on everyone.
“I’m really hurting and really worried about all these people that are from up here, and the people who are settled and been here fifteen, twenty years in this one place,” he said. “And they’re disabled. They can’t afford to move. Even if they get help to move out of here, they can’t afford another spot that they’re going to…I just don’t see no sense to put all the money they’ve been spending on all this manpower, and not fix the problem…All these people are going to be out on the street, and going to the government for help.”
Near the back of the property, Denise, who’s worked her way out of homelessness once, lives in a 35-foot-long 1973 green bus with a sign on the door that says, “No Hippys.”
“It usually runs beautifully, but my starter’s been fried,” she reflected. “And I need to replace that. They didn’t give me enough time to order the part, so that I can get out of here. I have a couple options in the next town north. However, feasibility is near impossible to get it there now. And I’m not really comfortable leaving my stuff here.” She’s been hitchhiking to work or getting rides from friends, “But it’s been really difficult, having to hitchhike, having to haul in all my own supplies and haul out trash. It’s been a challenge. I don’t know where it’s going to go from here. I’m on the fence about what to do.”
A friend of hers who came to visit just before the sinkhole opened up was stranded and lost her job, so the two are now roommates in the bus. But Janet is on her own because her husband, who has emphysema, is in the hospital. The couple, and their aging boxer mix, have a temporary place to land. But Janet hasn’t been impressed with county services since the disaster.
“I was asked twice if my husband needed oxygen, and I told them yes,” she claimed. “Nobody brought him anything. I was able to scrounge up oxygen tanks from somebody else who lives on the property who had tanks sitting around who is currently in the hospital right now.”
Denise summed up the situation succinctly. “It’s like thanks a lot. We had a home, and now we’re just basically SOL,” she remarked.
Several residents didn’t want to talk to me. They were scared, or ashamed to cry in front of a stranger. Not Janet.
“Yeah, we are poor,” she sobbed. “I’m just gonna straight up say it. We’re poor.”
The county’s homeless point in time count starts at sundown today, about a half hour after the bridge between Creekside Cabins and Highway 101 is scheduled to be removed.