It is only occasionally that a story is crafted in just such a way that it is possible to see past the veneer and into the economic horror of what being down and out in the United States can mean. Welcome to “The Jungle.” is the title. This is truly living in a state of nature in the middle of Silicon Valley.
Living in “The Jungle” means learning to live in fear. Especially after dark, when some people get violent. The 68-acre homeless camp in South San Jose is considered the largest in the United States. It’s a lawless place.
“When something goes wrong, you have to have some kind of backup,” says Troy Feid, pulling out a machete that he carries up his sleeve at night. “Just having it says ‘Don’t mess with me.’ ”
Feid, an unemployed union carpenter, lives in a fortress of netting and plastic tarp with a cat named Baby. He’s one of the 278 people who’ve claimed a spot in the thicket of cottonwood trees along Coyote Creek. He first moved here four years ago when he ran out of work.
The 53-year-old carpenter made good money at the height of the Silicon Valley construction boom in the 1980s and ’90s. He built movie theaters and installed ceilings in the new offices of high-tech companies that put San Jose and the rest of Santa Clara County on the map.
“All the buildings around here, you know, I probably worked on them,” said Feid, who was making up to $35 an hour in those days. Then came the dot-com crash in 2000, bankrupting dozens of Internet companies and drying up construction work. Feid lost his apartment and bounced around for years, living in people’s garages as he remodeled their homes. In 2009, a friend kicked him out and Feid found himself on the streets. All he had was his motorcycle and a few tarps.
“You build everything up … then you lose your job and then everything falls apart again,” Feid said. “At least here in the creek you know what your status is.”
The number of people living in the camp has tripled since Feid first moved in. The Jungle now has a Spanish-speaking section, and up the creek is the Vietnamese enclave known as Little Saigon. The explosive growth has led to more violence and filth. Dogs rummage through heaps of garbage and human waste.
“It’s disgusting now,” said Feid, who makes a bit of money fixing generators for other residents to power their cell phones and televisions. The $200 he gets each month in food stamps covers most of his meals, and the rest he gets from dumpster diving. He points to two garbage bags next to his bedroom door filled with expired Power Bars and Chex Mix.
There’s more of the same at the link. Instapundit, where this story was found, makes the ironic point, “Silicon Valley: American’s Future?”