Posted on 31 January 2012 by @singnplay
3.5 million homeless, 18.5 Million vacant homes in America Today. Why wont you let us in?
Oakland’s Lake Merritt now has the honor of being home to the “OO Hope Floats,” a beautiful new Occupy houseboat built by a devoted crew of Occupy Oaklanders. The boat, made of both new and salvaged wood, is happily floating in the vicinity of the northwest corner of Lake
Merritt in Oakland (in plain sight of the world, so never fear, this is no risky disclosure).
It has a pitched roof, front porch, white picket fence, and barbecue grill. The decor is a lovely pink, white
and blue, with a cheery red-and-white striped, pitched roof.
Approximately seven people have been residing in the little floating house around the
clock in rotating shifts, with lots of friendly visitors dropping by.
I interviewed aquapier Max today, one of the original builders of the OOHF, who told me that a crew of approximately 15 people of all ages and genders worked for a month constructing
the craft, which was discreetly launched in the quiet of the night following Sunday, January 29.
Although the sturdy-looking houseboat sometimes pitches and rolls in a slightly nervewracking manner, Max assured me that the boat is lakeworthy. She rides upon eighteen 65- gallon airtight drums which originally came from a candy factory. The boat-builders could even
smell the scent of candy wafting up from the drums as they worked!
The aquapiers are currently equipped with food, water, and other supplies, but they can still use ongoing donations from friendly Occusupporters. Their most recent list of needs and desires includes food, cushions, small chairs, a battery or solar power source, D batteries, and
Visitors with donations can come to the edge of Lake Merritt and yell to the boat in a friendly manner, whereupon the residents will row out to pick up supplies in one of their trusty dinghies (well, somewhat trusty – one of the small rowboats needs a bit of repair for its oars to be fully functional). If you need help finding the OOHF, said Max, it’s street address is 99 Lake Merritt in Oakland. (To out-of-towners: We’re not completely sure that the U.S. Postal Service
The brightly-colored boat is a lovely addition to Lake Merritt and blends in with its surroundings in a harmonious way. It is tangible evidence of the creative, motivated spirit of many members of Occupy Oakland. Three sides of the boat are in pastel colors, and the back outside wall has a message printed in large letters for all of Oakland to see: “3.5 Million
Homeless, 18.5 Million Vacant Homes In America Today. Why Won’t You Let Us In?”
“The purpose of the OO Hope Floats,” Max explained, “is to draw attention to the question of homelessness and the problem of the rights of property being placed above the rights of people. We wanted to do this in a positive, entertaining, and lighthearted way. We wanted
something that represents positivity and nonviolence.”
A passerby today wondered how long the wondrous houseboat would remain on the lake. Approximately three months ago, there was a previous aquapification (okay, I made up that word) by Occupy Oakland on Lake Merritt, the “SS Don’t Let the Banks Punk You Out,” which survived a week before Oakland police came out, arrested the aquapiers, and towed the boat in to
shore, never to be seen again.
The boat’s residents were cited with charges such as “boat” and released. We can only hope that the current Occuhouseboat, which is rather larger and more
elaborate than the previous one, will last even longer.
To end a beautiful first day on the lake, the OOHF crew invited 40 or so of their good Occupy friends for a boat party. Despite recent arrests, teargassings, noise, strife, and conflict with helmeted, baton-wielding City employees, Occupy Oakland rose up tonight to enjoy a much-needed night of revelry. House music, dancing, beating of drums, tiny boats, folks singing songs of love and Occupy, and a few barely avoiding falling overboard perfectly expressed the
exuberance of all present.
At least for the time being, Occupy Oakland has a proud, small – and slightly but happily
tilting – home.