Since November 2017, the Monterey County Coastal District Office parking lot on First Avenue in Marina was meant to be a safe spot for a handful of people without homes to park their cars overnight. The Board of Supervisors approved a contract with nonprofit One Starfish to operate the program, and things were going well until about a year ago when others not in the program began showing up, many with RVs and trailers. The new residents were unwilling or unable to follow One Starfish’s rules, including leaving the lot each morning.
Uneasy with their new neighbors, One Starfish clients asked to be moved, says Dorian Manuel, incoming executive director. The organization tried to help the new residents join or get connected to other homeless, health care or mental health services. Meanwhile more RVs, trailers and cars showed up, including those displaced from a spot on the former Fort Ord that the city of Seaside opened during the pandemic but shut down on June 15 when shelter-in-place orders ended. The Marina lot’s unofficial mayor, Wildfire Daystarr, estimates there were about 60 people living there as of early November.
As debris began piling up and the county was in need of the lot for a coming renovation project, officials prepared to shutter the camp. They arranged to pay mechanics up to $1,500 per vehicle for repairs and helped some obtain vehicle registrations. Department of Social Services and homeless outreach workers visited often, offering services and hotel vouchers, although Daystarr says some programs aren’t a good fit for those like herself with pets, or who struggle with mental health issues.
On Monday, Nov. 8, about 35 or so RVs, trailers, vans and cars were tagged with bright orange stickers from the Monterey County Sheriff’s Office announcing vehicles must be moved by Nov. 12 or be towed. Some residents say they have nowhere else to go. Daystarr says she’ll find somewhere to park her RV, but she’s keeping it quiet for fear some unruly residents will follow. “It’s stressing me out, I’m not sleeping,” she says of the impending eviction day. “I walk out here every night and I pray. I pray so hard.”
One woman who calls herself “The Grinch,” and proudly displays a cutout of the Dr. Seuss’ character’s head on the door to her RV, says this isn’t the first time she’s been booted. The county evicted her once before from an encampment on Lapis Road in 2017. “I’m the Grinch because they make me move,” she says.