tv KQED Newsroom PBS December 10, 2016 2:00am-2:31am PST
♪ welcome to kqed newsroom. i'm thuy vu. we open our program at oakland, at the site of the memorial for those who died in the ghost ship warehouse fire. the notes and candles symbolize the immense grief felt across the bay area and across the nation, in the week since the fire claimed 36 lives, many questions remain how many other warehouse spaces are there like this, how safe are they? who should be held accountable and what can be done to prevent something like this from happening again? investigators and city officials are continuing their work, but for the many people who lost friends or family members, their grief is still overwhelming. i'm here in oakland to talk to members of the arts community about how this tragedy is
affecting them and to remember some of the artists we have lost. russell butler is a local musician who was preparing to perform at the ghost ship warehouse moments before the fire broke out. russell, i know that you were at the site of the ghost ship when the fire happened. can you take us back to that night? what was going on? >> a lot of my friends were going to get together and just do what we love the most. >> there was a concert going on and people were there to celebrate art. >> celebrate art and to celebrate each other. >> and you were going to perform. you had set up your gear, and where were you when the fire broke out? >> i was outside. next to the door. >> what did you see, what did you hear when the fire broke out? you can't talk about it any understand. >> i lost a lot of people. they were all the best people. it is one of the reasons why it
is especially hard, not just the building or the loss of life in general. these people were pillars, these people really held a lot of people up. i was -- i feel very blessed to have been able to call them friends. >> can you tell us about one or two of them and what are your fondest memories of them, what they were like? >> i think of someone like johnny, johnny guz. whenever you saw him he would always be smiling. i think about cash a lot. i was really just stunned by her. she was someone who was so young but already clearly knew who they were. >> this has been sauch difficuc difficult week for so many people. as you reflect and look forward, what are he hoping will come out of all of this? >> i really hope that it brings
communities together to advocate for those of us in the arts communities and those of us who are people of color and queer and trans and the most marginalized and the most vulnerable. ♪ >> after talking with russell butler i headed to the vintage sympathizer museum in oakland to meet with three others who lost friends in the fire. john lady is a musician, jonah stroud is a musician and sound engineer, brendan draper is a sound engineer and manages local bands. thank you all for being with us. i know it's been a really tough week. could each of you tell us about someone that you lost in the fire and you would like to share a memory of. >> two people i lost were ben ren alds and dinalda, they were in a band that i worked with for the last two years about. i'm just going to miss their complete honesty about, you know, every situation we were in, whether it was good or bad.
both of them had like a personal philosophy to kind of like experience whatever feeling you're feeling in the moment, you know, whether that be like sadness, happiness, social anxiety, you know, all of that, the whole range. >> i lost kammy tanling. she was a tireless facilitator of the arts, selflessly putting herself out there to make everyone feel like they had a place and a space and a community to do whatever they wanted, and she was incredibly infectious to be around. and ara jo, everyone was close with her. everyone knew what she was doing for the community. everyone knew that she was so capable of working with everyone constantly. she would be cutting someone's hair, giving someone like a
tattoo, making an illustration, and all the while running dora show, making people dinner, literally simultaneously all of this stuff would happen and no one knew how she did it >> think everybody should know about billie dixon because that was one undercover dude. in addition to being a brilliant deejay and an encyclopedia knowledge of hip hop, billie had an electronic production technique that was unparalleled and utterly unique. he would use antiquated technology in ways that that technology was never used in the first place, and i was wildly impressed with his production skills. i own a tape machine that he told me and i'm going to love it and cherish it forever. i wish he was still around. >> so what's the effect of this loss on the art scene in oakland would you say? >> i mean i think the effect, it
wasn't just one or two people. they were all -- sort of like an artery has been ruptured, that is just kind of bleeding out right now and people are inspired in ways that they've never been inspired before to build upon that mourning and, like, just own it and redirect it into so much more work with each other than i think we've ever seen. >> the ghostship was a warehouse, was not intended to be a residence. a number of people eventually did live there. was the ghostship an outlier or is it indicative of a lot of unsafe places like that? >> well, thanks for using the word outlier, because you really hit the nail on the head. the ghostship was by far the most unsafe space i've ever heard of or seen that was diy
built in oakland. i have been in countless, literally countless warehouse spaces and i've never seen anything like that. i saw pictures from before the fire. i have spoken with many friends who have been in there, and it is not just the media reports. it was totally an unsafe space. i can't -- i can't support that kind of buildout. every buildout that i've ever been a part of or been privy to in multiple cities has been built with much greater eye towards safety first and code second. the city of oakland is under pressure from both local and national and international news media and a lot of nimby folks to crack down on warehouses. so what happens is a space will get red tagged and it gives the landlord free rein to do whatever they want with the building. they can pay off their fines and they can attempt to rehabilitate the building immediately or they can stall for three years until all of the tenants go away and
relinquish their rights to return, and then rebuild it as condos. this is a housing crisis. we are fighting a battle and we want to not lose the war. everybody knows that our rents in oakland are second to san francisco which is second to manhattan. >> a lot of people are already fighting to keep their spaces that are exponentially safer, were put in a position to where sometimes we have to just perform and facilitate each other's art in our own home. it's been going on for so long that this is -- this is our livelihood. this is where we gather, this is where we support each other. if we don't have that, then we have next to nothing. >> meanwhile, a lot of attention is still focused on the ghostship. there are questions now about who should be held accountable. who do you think should be held responsible for what happened there? >> i would love it if the city took some responsibility for
this. i would love it if libby schaaf would take some public responsibility for this. i mean, you know, i like the people at the building department. i've had a lot of interest actions with them. -- interactions with them. they're not given the resources they need to do what they need to do. it is not giving them more money and power to shut spaces down, it is give the city the resources and that includes social working, embedded within the building department to reach out to spaces and talk about what people's actual needs are on the ground. if the city actually cares about its residents, it will perform a complete overhaul of the way that the building department functions, and that's going to have to come from mayor schaaf herself, not a $1.7 million arts grant to fund exclusively established nonprofits who have nice spaces downtown. >> if you're not recognized in the housing crisis, whether or not you call it a crisis, people being displaced who have made
oakland what it is in these spaces, it is not going to hold the city together. >> are there enough spaces in oakland for performers like you and others to do your work, show your work, and that are affordable? >> actually, believe it or not, i think that there are enough spaces for us to do our work and show our work, but the problem is that those spaces are under such duress. if we can find a way to get those spaces under less duress, find a way -- >> what do you mean by that, under duress? >> we cannot talk to the city. we can't -- we can't just tell them, tell them that we exist because the only mechanism -- excuse me. the only mechanisms that are in place right now are either you operate a completely undercover of darkness, even if you have formal businesses running out of your space, or you get shut down. it is very black and white. >> you get shut down because of building codes? >> yeah.
it is just very -- it is basically nobody snitches, and it is a ridiculous way to live. and in some way that duress breeds really good creativity, but i would much rather creativity bred in the community by having spaces that everybody feels comfortable and safe in and know aren't going to get shut down. people in the world at large are truly concerned with supporting the arts in oakland, help us buy a building, you know. help us buy the building that we're already in. let's take it out of the hands of greedy landlords -- sorry, mostly greedy landlords, not all of them. and let's put it in the hands of the artists. help us pass our fire code inspections. help us, you know, look at the spaces that we're already in and see how to improve them. it is not that we need different spaces. it's that we need to make our spaces solvent. >> we are operating under cover, and to operate undercover is to
be completely out -- or for the most part off the radar. and the biggest goal like during the -- like, you know, owning a building, finding ways for the city to recognize what that can do for oakland, what that can do for the artists that are already living there who have invested so much of their own money trying to make it safe and trying to make it viable and, again, like there's something to be said for people who are welcoming people into their homes to share what they've made with them and have them share what they made with the city. and i invite the mayor, i would invite whoever i could to actually, like, come to one of these events and really take in what it is about because i think
there's a great deal of like naivety to what is actually happening in the space. aside from the politics of it, there are people who are developing opinions that really just don't know. >> so where do you think we should go from here? >> going from here, i mean i would just hope that everyone who is creating music, creating art and stuff in oakland just keeps on doing it. but i hope that, you know, on both sides especially in the housing debate and from the city and from the people wanting spaces, that people do like meet in the middle. >> the other really important thing that i think everyone in the bay needs to focus on is a vast portion of the oakland artistic community are black folks, brown folks, transgender folks, queer folks, poor folks. all of these people who rank less high on the privilege scale, who are even -- at even
greater risk than people who look like we do at losing their homes, losing their voices, losing their places to express their art. i think that moving forward not only does the discussion need to focus on how to keep oakland artists in oakland and off the streets, but specifically how to make sure that the transgender and folks of color, people in our community are supported appropriately. >> do you feel pessimistic or do you feel hopeful that something positive might come out of this? >> i feel 110% optimistic. we knew that there was going to be an out pouring of support from each other, but we weren't expecting everyone to be as invigorated as it's -- there's no words for what is happening right now and how confident people are moving forward that they want to really honor their friends' memories, and the only way -- like we all know that the
only way to do that is to make it okay for this community to continue doing what it is doing. >> we've got eten a lot stronge as a community. that's one thing that has really come out of this. we don't even say hello to each other on the street anymore, everybody just embraces. you don't ask, how you doing. i know how you're doing, you know how i'm doing, terrible. but we're sticking together, and we're sticking together through every means necessary. >> well, on that note of unity and hope and coming together, we want to thank you for your time. i know it has been a really difficult week and our condolences are with you in your loss. john, brendan and jonah, thank you all. >> thank you. >> thanks. >> that was thuy vu reporting in oakland. the tragedy at the ghostship warehouse highlighted the pressures artists face in the bay area including high housing prices. of course the housing crisis
affects many others too including college students. a new stud from san diego state university found one-third of all community college students are either homeless or living on the edge of being unable to afford housing. for a closer look i'm joined by kqed reporter laura clivens. she has been looking at problems faced by students. and lorraine harvey started the homeless student union at kell. taylor, why did you feel a need to start the homeless student union? >> i think students identified a discrepancy between the resources for food and security and housing and security. a number of students that i was familiar with came into housing insecurity or homelessness and found that there are a number of faculty that didn't know how to approach them ordeal with the situation, and that there was a lot of -- a lack of support for those students. so it was kind of in an effort to support ourselves and start to form solutions to help ourselves. >> so would you say it was a lack of support from the administration or just they
didn't know how to help? >> i think it was both. i think that a lot of faculty and administration and staff and professors didn't know how to talk to the students who were suffering from these conditions. i think that there were a lack of concrete resources for these students. i think there were a lack of solutions, and i think that the students didn't really know what to do. so we started this to help ourselves. >> and what is your situation with regard to housing? >> i've been homeless or housing insecure since i was about 13. i suffered from homelessness during the last three years of high school, and i stayed with a kind family who agreed to take me in until i graduated, until i graduated misand g graduated high school and got into college. >> in san diego. >> down in san diego. >> you have been doing this reporting. tell me what you set out to find and how difficult. what were some of the difficulties you found finding
students willing to talk to you? >>. >> reporter: it was actually hard to find subjects to talk to, which was surprising for all of us. i worked on this story with two other reporters. so what we ended up doing was we really blitzed all of these college campuses trying to get folks to respond to us. you know, i eventually found taylor. luckily taylor is in this situation where she is housed right now, and so like what you told me when we were talking was that she feels okay talking, but so many of the other people do not because they are sleeping in places that are not allowed, like campus buildings, or they just have so much going on logistically in their lives -- >> is there an element of -- i don't want to put a word in their mouths, but like shame that they don't have housing? taylor? >> yeah, i think there's a huge around it. i think their peers don't understand it or don't think it exists. that's the hugest problem, that a lot of people in the campus
community don't really realize that this happens. it is not really taukd abolked and there's a silence around the whole issue as well as a sort of shame, people are worried. >> reporter: i think it is definitely a hidden issue. when we tried to find people, part of not identifying as homeless is for the preservation of your pride. i spoke to people well into their 20s who looked back on their teenage years or college experience who realized they were homeless but they wouldn't use that word. >> what is homeless or housing insecure, are you couch surfing or not knowing where you will be month to month? >> i think the boundary is unclear. there are a number of factors making you housing insecure including rent being over 40% of your income or over crowding because the landlord could come in and kick you out at any time, also like having no savings which is like the situation that
i'm in. i'm like currently living somewhere that's really nice and i'm able to afford rent, but if i like for some reason have an extra expensely mick laptop gets stolen or something, i will not be able to afford rent the next month. >> laura t i know one of the students you met and profiled was britney jones. tell us about her and what her life was like as you spent time with her. >> reporter: yes, it was an amazing experience to meet her. i feel like her life is all about logistics and details, knowing when bart opens, knowing where you can charge your phone, knowing that you get food vouchers here on there, knowing the showers at this one place are open at this time. >> what is the importance of knowing when bart opens? >> for her, she will go and rest on bart. so often if she doesn't have a place to stay overnight, she will go to bart right as it opens up and basically sleep on bart until the rush hour crowd comes in. >> and she is a student at lany? >> she is a student at lany college which is a community
college right by lake merritt. it was great getting to know her, and i think one of the things i took away from meeting her was despite not having much of a safety net and a support system around her, she really had this incredible level of resilience internally, like the way she had to talk to herself was a very positive one. >> well, taylor, i would think that -- i mean it is hard for any college student under the best of circumstances, especially freshman year, you're getting adjusted to being away from home, it can be expensive, all kinds of grade pressures and you add on top of that this housing insecurity and homelessness, it takes a special kind of person to live through that and pursue a college education, doesn't it? >> yes, i think i was privileged enough to have been through this already before i came to college, so i developed the tactical knowledge and i developed the skills and i developed the ability to stay resilient and motivate myself. >> how did you develop that? >> trial and error, i guess. through being tried and tried again. a lot of work, a lot of
exhaustion, a lot of like sleepless nights. i would have to take the bus for three-and-a-half hours to get to school at some points, and i would just remember that like college was my only way out of this cycle. so that was my primary motivator. then i finally got to uc berkley and i found that i still had to keep working and still had to keep fighting. that was i think the hardest part. >> laura, to what extent do we know sort of the demographics of who these students are, where they're from? it would be easy to stereotype, but i imagine they come from all parts of the state and country probably and world for that matter. tell us what you know about that. >> reporter: yeah, they do. i mean when we have spoken with experts and we've reached out to these students that we ended up finding, people really came from different backgrounds, all genders, all ethnicities, all races. >> reporter: is there a commonality? >> there are some commonalities. a lot of individuals who are former foster youths find
themselvesness this situation again. lgbtq youth who may have been rejected and no longer supported by their families of origin. and then among the homeless young population, unaccompanied minors actually are some that end up in shelters here in the united states. >> from like central america and mexico, south of the border? >> yeah, right. >> and, taylor, what does your student union advocate for? what do you want from the university and how responsive are they? >> well, we started really not just knowing how to approach the idea, and so we fostered a lot of creative solutions via just like conversations. we kind of are push filiing for emergency housing fund as well as like an emergency housing location in case homeless students were to arrive and contact faculty, they could just be referred there. those are just immediate solutions. but we've also been approached by a number of people from the community, i think just the fact that we exist has given us an opportunity to curate resources
rather than just create them. so i contact person to refer to other resources, and the fact we exist is a testament to the fact that this is a problem. >> reporter: the other thing that i wanted to circle back to that taylor mentioned was that your understanding was that going to college would be something that got you out of that situation in high school. >> uh-huh. >> reporter: i think some people when we've been reporting this story have asked us, well, does it make sense to go to college right now when maybe you should be working or looking to a vocational career? every young person that we spoke with, they had a very similar feeling to what you've expressed, is that they've experienced economic hardship in the past and so now they're really hoping to get what is now socially pretty -- pretty needed to get ahead and get an affordable wage. >> to what extent does financial aid -- i mean uc talks about how many financial aid they give to students for tuition and living costs. i mean to what extent does that not cover the cost of housing? >> there was actually a
statistic that was just released that rent is underestimated financially by 42%. so i have just enough personally to pay for just rent. i have to pay for utilities and food on my own, which means i work about 20 to 40 hours a week to do that and also have a savings in case something were to happen. i need some kind of safety net even though i don't really have one in general. >> yeah. laura, what do you hope people take away from the reporting that you and others at kqed are doing on this? >> reporter: i think just that this is an issue. i think the reason why a lot of campuses are not acting is because they're just seeing that it is a problem. we have just seen studies come out about the actual numbers and looking at the gaps or what exists presently, and it is very piecemeal, the approach. so just that there's more of a focus on a task force or more long-term and short-term solutions. >> yeah, what would you add to that, taylor? what do you want people to know that they may not know about
homeless students and housing insecure students? >> yeah, i think underscore the fact they exist and the fact we're working on a much different playing field than everyone else. it is difficult to get ahead in classes and apply to grad school and take the tests when we can't figure out where we're going to sleep that night or figure out what we're going to eat the next day. we are working with a lot more obstacles than other students and it is hard to understand why we're on the same curve. >> yeah, all right. taylor, lorraine harvey. laura clivens, thank you for your reporting. let's hope lots of people hear about it and pay attention. that's it for our show tonight. go to kqed.org/newsroom. we would like to end with a song from dinalda, renee and ben olds, young musicians who died in the ghostship fire. they performed in a band call intro-flirt. i'm scott schafer. good night.
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