'Crushing Wheelchairs' play brings awareness to Bay Area unhoused community

Tara Campbell Image
Sunday, February 12, 2023
Play brings awareness to Bay Area unhoused community
Here's a glimpse at "Crushing Wheelchairs," a play presented by Theatre of the Poor. Its entire cast made up the unhoused . . . or once unhoused.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- There's a court battle over the city's effort to cleanup the Wood Street camp, an encampment for unhoused people in Oakland.

First, it had the green light.

Then on Friday, it was put on hold again by federal court judge.

But that's not the only big blow the city took this week in its attempts to solve the homelessness crisis.

But a timely and unique and theatrical performance opens Sunday and is offering up its own solutions.

"Wait a minute that's my stuff."

A glimpse at "Crushing Wheelchairs," a play presented by Theatre of the Poor. Its entire cast made up the unhoused . . . or once unhoused.

"It humanizes ourselves that we are not just drug addicts, houseless people, there's actually families and children, aunties and uncles, and grandmas," said Muteado Silencio, a cast member.

MORE: Judge allows Oakland to clear homeless encampment on Wood Street to build affordable housing

Silencio is joined by a handful of fellow cast members, including playwright, poet and activist Lisa Gray-Garcia, known best as "Tiny."

"The main reason we did this play and the work we always do is to lift up poor people's solutions," she said.

The play portrays the struggles of life on the streets and triumphs of community which premieres in San Francisco Sunday afternoon.

"This is not a play done by middle-class actors playing for people - this actually ourselves being impacted who have lived through poverty and struggle," said Silencio.

The City of Oakland in its own struggle as this week the state rejected its affordable housing proposal putting much needed funding in jeopardy.

MORE: SF Mayor Breed lays out plan to combat crime, revitalize downtown in State of the City address

Councilmember Noel Gallo says the decision was surprising.

"The reality is Oakland does not have all the money necessary to do all the work as quickly as we'd like to do it," he said.

MORE: SF supervisor says city's $1.45B budget plan to end homelessness won't work

San Francisco Supervisor Rafael Mandelman says city's $1.45 billion budget plan to house all homeless won't solve the actual problem.

And the pressure is on. On Friday, a federal judge halting the removal of the Wood Street encampment.

The city was supposed to start relocating residents to three other sites, including a cabin community.

But the judge reversed course because the sites are not ready.

MORE: Leaders looking to find safe parking for those living in cars along San Mateo Co. coast

"We have several sites in East Oakland. We're trying to develop RV locations that will house a hundred-plus RV's, but it takes time," said Gallo.

In the meantime, this cast says the show must go on.

"We're more than just numbers and trash because they are always trying to sweep us. We are human beings we are a community," said Silencio.

The San Francisco show is on Sunday, Feb. 12 at 4 p.m. The Oakland show is on Sunday, Feb. 26. You can learn more about purchasing tickets for the Oakland show here.

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