Homeless Antioch resident shares concerns, discussion group in downtown for mental health and wellness

Dear Editor:

With pride, A Cup of Jo Bruno (ACoJB) presents a bittersweet blend of warmth and sacred space while providing an opportunity for delta life to be recognized for the unique attributes to downtown Antioch. While currently homeless, ACoJB is building a community with the folks who know the rituals of delta living. As seasons change, the early morning routines will be met with fresh coffee, baked goods and special guest appearances from local advocates and funders of upcoming development in the area. Before the normal business hours of downtown Antioch, there is a unique opportunity to strengthen what has since been lost; community. Community builds family, and downtown Antioch has lost family along the way because we have forgotten our community. We seem to have forgotten a lot.

Antioch is a shadow of what it once was. It’s at the dark side of the moon. The tides keep rising and falling and the fish are still biting, but downtown Antioch is the hidden gem that seems to be looked over. Surrounding cities, and even mid/up-town Antioch are being developed where folks are spending their money in the newly acquired space. However, from Highway 4 to the Delta waters and A Street to Auto Center Drive, not so much. I could even throw in the Antioch Mall to this region of Downtown Antioch. What’s really going on folks? Maybe we don’t want new people here. Maybe we don’t want the oldtown feel to change. Maybe we don’t trust outsiders. Maybe we are just too scared to open our arms to something that will change the unique beauty of our culture. As a matter of fact, it very well could be because we are still fighting amongst ourselves and blaming others for our inability to accept our unique culture for what it is. But, regardless of the reasons or opinions of others, we need to develop downtown Antioch.

There are layers here. There are dark corners, shady ledges, and some low-down places along these delta lines. The homelessness. The drugs. The death along the tracks. The hidden secrets of women and the most dangerous of situations. The missing girls and boys. Drug and human trafficking. The beauty of small-town business and their owners. The unseen truths of trade and barter. The respect and honor held between strangers as they share a joint and enjoy the colors of our delta sunrise and sunset. There are those who smell of the waters from coming back from a fishing trip and others who are still sleepy-eyed, going out for their first attempt at fishing that day. The piers have lines dropped every day. You’ll find, in some hidden corners, an attempt to take a life, save a life and even birth a life in the marshlands of the delta.

We are all shades of ghetto and rock and roll. We love low riders with miniature tires and hydraulic jumps. Don’t get us started with the sideshows and loud music. Or the spray paint tagging you’ll find along the train tracks. The trains themselves are constant with their horns, too. Road hogs, Harley’s, and crotch rockets can be found in parking lots all along the water line. There’s the industrial side of things where the dust is kicked up from outside forklift use. The semi-trucks are constantly in and out of our driveways. The grease is on our knuckles, mud on our boots, and weed in our pockets. In a blink of an eye, we’ve seen two dispensaries show up. Thank you! But we won’t ever forget the backwoods dank. Bottom line, we don’t do much, but we do it all together. We watch out for each other. We keep our distance when we need to. We are as dysfunctional as any other community family and it’s about time we show the Bay Area what we’re about.

The laughter, the tears, the anger and pain. The love, the compassion, the secrets and rewards. The humor, the slang, the language and cultures. We are a breed of river rats with foul mouths and a don’t-give-a-darn attitude. We’ll jump from pleasant to ratchet in a split second then buy you a drink. We are the misfits, the rejects and troublemakers. We don’t listen well, but we know how to talk. We break rules, create new ones, and we’ll change them regularly depending on the situation at hand. Those who live, work, and play along the entire delta are a special culture of folks. Within that delta line is the small corridor of downtown Antioch. We are like none other.

Many are ignorant and blind to the street life, however. Folks are consistent with their failure to shut their mouths and open their hearts. Or their wallets. The privileged don’t recognize the pain of the poor but the poor is rising in community. Watch out, y’all. Soon, you’ll see community gardens providing fresh food for our local schools. How about innovated solutions for our homeless? A place for our youth to kick it? Or what about a comfortable atmosphere to explore some of that deep-rooted delta trauma we’ve experienced? We’ll have workshops and trainings available to help with mental health wellness. We need it because, the truth is, those of us with roots along the delta know it’s a constant struggle. The old family roots come with new beginnings because things are changing so rapidly. Folks want to heal their ancestral pain. The development of oldtown Antioch is inevitable, and it’s intriguing to see who’ll succeed in bringing us new business. Where will the community decide to spend their money when the new developments come? Will these new developments try to kick us out?

If you pay close attention to the community of delta life, you’ll find a breed of folks who’ll love you deeper than anything you ever experienced. We watch out for one another and if someone’s in trouble, we tend to rally together and help. We are dirty but clean when we need to be. Sometimes we fight. Folks will pull a gun, shoot out your tires, talk shit all day long, but come to hug each other after smoking a blunt. And seriously, be careful. You leave your car running while you run inside to get something, it might get taken and later found along the backroads with no tires. We have that red, sippy cup lifestyle with straws and drinks on ice. You’ll find us taking shots, talking shit and playing pool. We’ll throw some dice, flirt with the visitors and maybe even hook up with a stranger. We love to eat. We’ll cook for you anytime. We know how to get something when we need it. You’ll find survivors out here.

And, one thing is for sure, what you won’t find out here, along the delta, is judgment. Sure, we may not like you but we ain’t gone judge you. Sure, we may ask you to leave our establishment, but you’ll never be judged. Most likely, you’ll become a story we tell the locals. Or maybe you’ll fit right in and become a local. The thing is, down here, you could be a person of color or transgender and come across someone who is uneducated who uses a derogatory word. It might make you mad. Or even piss you off. But it isn’t because we’re disrespectful, it’s just, truth is, we’re a breed of folks who don’t care. It’s not that we don’t care about you and your overall wellbeing, because we do want you to succeed in life. Truly. But what it comes down to is that we don’t care what you do or who you do it with or how you’re doing it. Just don’t interfere too much with our lives. It’s no joke down here, at the delta water line. You’ll find culture alright, just make sure you’re ready for it because we’ll never change. Or leave. Don’t come down here getting your feelings hurt. We don’t want your Starbucks. We don’t want your corporations. We don’t need any more liquor stores or mini markets. We have enough hair solons, tattoo shops, and thrift stores. Let’s calm down a bit with all the churches, huh. I don’t really want to get started on the massage industry either, but please stop. And seriously, the solution for restrooms at the marina are ridiculous. We can do better than outhouses and cement buildings that resemble a prison cell. Antioch, we can do better.

The new developments will be challenged by the locals if it doesn’t already fit into our culture. Some folks have tried, and they’re no longer in business. Sorry, not sorry? Folks from other parts of the Bay come into Antioch, thinking they can add to it by creating something new. Not quite. Stop trying. It doesn’t work. Learn the culture and community before you build here. Learn the voice of the delta before you start telling us to change our ways. Learn the pain of our homeless before you tell us to leave. This is our home, too. Take our word, trust us. Listen to us. We know. We’ve been doing this for many generations, and there is a new vision coming. Work with us.

We ask that you learn something before you come into our hood and try to rebuild us. City representatives and the old money still in this town need to learn from us, too. Y’all think you know what we want? Come talk to us and I bet you don’t. I’ll throw my money on any bar to bet that you have no idea what we want down here. Or what our interests are. Or how we see our own community being developed. Honestly, in some situations, we’re still arguing amongst ourselves. The bottom line is that it’s time y’all start throwing your money where it’s needed. Come talk us. We have answers. We have innovated ideas and solutions for the millions of dollars you’re confused about spending for your community’s needs. The land that is owned by the city needs to be used for proper structures, programs, and development. We’re such a unique culture down here, don’t try to change us.

This piece is solely the voice and opinion of Jo Bruno, a Pittsburg native who has called Antioch home since 2002. She spent many hours along the tracks as a young adult, working in the deep industrial side of delta life. Jo’s lived experience and education allows her the authority on Peer Support in Contra Costa County. Currently a Peer Action League Member for California Association of Mental Health Peer-Run Organizations (CAMHPRO), she is advising on how to build policy so Peer Specialists can finally be recognized in the state. California is one of only a few states that don’t recognize their Peer Specialists, so Jo is advocating for more Peer Programs in east Contra Costa County. Jo Bruno is also working with Contra Costa County Behavioral Health Department, Mental Health Services Act, and advising multiple committees and organizations (i.e. 211, Health Leads (BALI) and more). Together, throughout the Bay Area, they are working on changing the stigma of homelessness and mental health while encouraging advocacy and self-expression to change public policy in Contra Costa County. Jo is a significant bridge between millions of state and federally funded dollars and East Contra Costa County. The system is flawed, and she believes we can make forward movement without disrespecting the already strong community in downtown Antioch. Starting in the early morning hours of Spring 2020, ACoJB will be open for discussion and solutions regarding the topics of how we can develop our city together.

Tony’s Beer Garden is established by a long-time entrepreneur in the restaurant and bar business. The opinions, discussions and projects are in no way associated with Tony, but the Beer Garden’s outside environment will hold space for discussion and event planning. It’s where we will fundraise, have open forums, and concert events to bring awareness to our unique culture. At this establishment, we will begin providing Peer Programs that Jo is establishing with an up and coming peer community, The Delta Peers. The Delta Peers is a collaboration of Peer Specialists throughout Contra Costa County who have lived experience within the mental health systems. We are peers who have lived experience with many platforms and systems. We are trained professionals who can bridge resources to the community needs. Tony’s Beer Garden is located at 809 W. Second Street in Antioch

Jo Bruno

Antioch

www.acojb.com #CupOfJoBruno – a long time self-publication platform for mental health wellness and healing trauma

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4 Comments to “Homeless Antioch resident shares concerns, discussion group in downtown for mental health and wellness”

  1. Andrea S. says:

    As this is an “solely an opinion piece” , I cannot dispute this person’s opinion. With all due respect, my opinion is that the author is supporting the stereotypes that lead to the hostility and mistreatment of the homeless. “We” do not fall into the same category of “river rats” and ghetto people. Not all of us have “weed in our pockets” Sadly, this paints the description of many stereotypes of homelessness. Some of us have jobs and can not afford housing. Some of us were evicted when we could not keep up with costs of living or had an unexpected car or medical expense. There are many layers of homelessness and the reasons why people become homeless or even choose to be homeless. “we” don’t all fit the mold described in the writer’s opinion.

    • Manual Reyes says:

      Yes. My uncle lost his house after he got hurt on the job two years ago. He isn’t out there doing all those things. He’s too proud to stay with us. I try to help him but struggling too. No one will hire him because he is older. He has a few friends that give him odd jobs and some food. and he can’t apply for a lot of programs and services.

    • Jo Bruno says:

      And, the point is missed if you think I am speaking for you then. Antioch as a WHOLE CULTURE is all of this. Being homeless has millions of reasons why. Not a lot of us homeless do these things, correct. But IT IS THE CULTURE OF ANTIOCH. If you don’t understand that, come talk to me.

  2. Steven R. says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever read so many words that have said so little! Please work on reducing the repetition in your writing as it took a lot of willpower to make it all the way to the end. As an example, count how many times you used the word “unique”. I would do it for you, but I think it would be a better learning opportunity if you did it for yourself.

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