The homeless problem in the Mission Lakes neighborhood
Taha Mojadidi and Rena Wei
Mission Lakes is a five minute drive from American High School. It’s not known for being a particularly attractive neighborhood: there are no scenic “Welcome to Fremont, CA” postcard photos taken here. Until recently, it was home to litter and tons of dead grass. But recently, it’s become a real home for people living in blue tents. People with no shoes, no socks, and nowhere to go.
On March 18, 2018, a homeless family, the Suarez’s, moved on to a patch of land at the edge of Goldsmith Drive in the Mission Lakes neighborhood.
“There’s nowhere else to go. We did have a house a few months ago. We lived on Cabrillo Street on Irvington,” said Bonnie Suarez. “My husband lost his job and the bank took our house. We have been homeless for almost 4 months.”
They did not immediately move to Goldsmith Drive. The first course of action for Bonnie and her family was the local shelter on Mowry.
“It was a hassle because there’s not always space there and we wouldn’t know if we would get a room every day,” explained Suarez. “It was a mystery every single day. Living here has been much easier for my family. We almost feel like normal, regular people.”
The Suarez family aren’t the only people living on the patch at Goldsmith. They were recently joined by Jacquelyn Rafique, a thirty-eight year old woman originally from Hayward, who has also taken sanctuary in the patch.
“I was not always homeless… I went to Hayward High,” said Rafique. “I used to live in those houses by Eden Shore. I own these streets. No one can and no one will take this away from me.”
Defiant in the face of her misfortunes, Rafique sees everything as part of the Wheel of Fortune.
“It is the circle of life, you know. It’s just what goes up and what goes down. I went to UC Santa Cruz for college,” she explained. “People look at me like I’m a low-life. They don’t know who I am.”
During her college years, Rafique’s mother was diagnosed with lung cancer and decided to put her life on hold to take care of her mother.
“I majored in psychology, but dropped out to help my mom,” said Rafique. “I dropped everything for her, but she still passed on the next year.”
After this tragic event, everything she put on hold slipped away from her. Her house was taken away, she had no money to go back to school, and failed to get numerous jobs. Now she does what she can to get her life back on track, but living on the streets poses obstacles that seem insurmountable.
“I still apply to whatever jobs I find,” she said sadly. “The only problem I have is I don’t know how to find out if I got the job. I ain’t got no laptop, no phone.”
Many residents of Goldsmith have demanded that the homeless be moved immediately. Mission Lakes’ Homeowner Association has taken multiple steps in order to remove the relocate (or at least remove) the newest members to the community.
“This has been an issue for a while,” said Mission Lakes HOA representative, Sunil Sethi. “I think it is getting hot right now because more and more homeless people have been coming. At first there was only one homeless lady who set up camp. Now there are much more. I feel for these people but the responsibility of the HOA is to keep this neighborhood safe. The Mission Lakes HOA is doing everything in their power to contact the city government. At this point, there are no updates and we are waiting on a response. I think this problem should be fixed before more and more homeless people come to Mission Lakes.”
Mission Lakes residents say they are more concerned with the housing market aspect of this problem.
“If our neighborhood becomes some homeless shelter, the prices of Mission Lakes homes will depreciate very rapidly,” exclaimed Mission Lake resident, Saranay Lange. “I’m not heartless… I just don’t want us to suffer from something that is preventable.”
Many AHS students who reside in the area disagree with the intentions of the HOA.
“It’s definitely not okay,” said Imaan Mojadeddi (10). “We don’t own the land so we have no right to force others to get out. It is completely their choice. If they want to stay here, let them stay here.”
Some students even say that doing so would be no different than kicking out one of your own family members from your home.
“These are not inanimate objects,” exclaimed Sahar Fedai (11). “They have mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers. I’m shocked to see that my own neighbors feel this way. I will definitely be going to the next HOA meeting to discuss my feelings.”
After hearing some of the backlash against them, some of the Mission Lakes “patch” residents feel like they are being a burden.
“I didn’t know my presence could start such a big deal,” said Ricardo Puedero, a homeless man living on the patch. “I just needed a place to stay… a place I could call my home but apparently my neighbors don’t want me here.”
Despite all this, the homeless say they have no alternatives.
“In the end, I just need a place to stay,” said Alexia Mareen, a current homeless resident. “It’s not their land so why do they care so much if I stay… I didn’t know people could be so heartless.”
Local residents from other Fremont neighborhoods have been aiding the homeless of Mission Lakes by collecting canned foods and clothing and distributing it to the homeless in the area. “I’m not from the Mission Lakes neighborhood,” said homeless helper, Raina Ronesh. “I heard about this problem and gathered a group of people from my neighborhood to help them in any way I can.”
With help comes fire. This is what occured on April 17, 2018, when a group of local helpers got into a heated argument with the residents of Mission Lakes.
“It is not their neighborhood,” said Mission Lakes resident, Faria Anjum. “They have no right to butt in our neighborhood affairs. They are making all our hard working go down the drain. By aiding the homeless in this area, they are giving them an unspoken invitation into our neighborhood.”
On April 20th, there will be a public forum in Mission Lakes regarding what to do with the “people of the patch”.
“I recommend every Mission Lakes resident to attend this meeting,” said HOA President, Fazel Mojadidi. “This will make a great impact on the future and well-being of our neighborhood.
Caption: Mareen stands at the edge of the patch where dozens of people have taken shelter. “