Homeless Man Lost Millions Now Lives in a Oakland Tent City

Homeless Man Lost Millions Now Lives in a Oakland Tent City

– [Mark] Derek, we’re here in Oakland. We’re at a city-sanctioned tent community that basically you founded and oversee. – Yes. – [Mark] Well first let’s talk about your homelessness and
how you ended up homeless because you have a very interesting story. – Yeah, it was a interesting
road getting here. I worked for over 20 years with the United States
Department of Defense as a classified contractor, had developed some health
issues because of my work, forced into retirement in 2007. I was a multimillionaire. I had plenty of money to retire on, so I was fine with
retiring and I was only 47. And so I bought a home in North Carolina on a beautiful lake. Two and a half months later, my financial institution
went bankrupt overnight, no warning (sighs) and it was devastating. – [Mark] You lost a lotta money, and for those of you watching this video that don’t believe him,
I’ve seen the picture. Just the picture of his boat
alone, this man had money. – I had three boats, I had
a home here in Oakland, a million dollar home here in Oakland, and I bought a half-million
dollar home in North Carolina. – [Mark] And we should
clarify, this is years ago. Because a million dollar home in Oakland probably ain’t work much these days. – No, that’s a fixer upper. (laughs)
– Right. – But I had a home here in one
of the most prestigious parts of Oakland, the Grand Lake area. That home was a family home, it was built by my great-grandfather. Not built by him, but he commissioned it. And it was in the family the whole time until I retired and
moved to North Carolina. – [Mark] My heart breaks for you because I lost everything
in the ’08 crash, but I didn’t have millions. – Yeah, and I didn’t see anything coming. I had a backup plan to work back there in case things kinda went south and when things go beyond
what your backup plan can do, I was literally left with
little to no options. I had about $6,000 in my
local checking account, got by for a little while by renting, or not renting, but taking
a title loan out on my boat that I had back there. Ended up losing that because,
again, there was no work. Back then, here in the Bay Area, we would see one page of foreclosures, out there where I was it
was three newspaper pages of foreclosures everyday so– – [Mark] Yeah, when I first
hit the economic crash, they weren’t yet saying the R-word. – Mm-hm. – [Mark] So I wish I had known ’cause I woulda walked
away from the house. Instead, I was paying the mortgage, the electric bill, food on my credit card, so when my house finally
went into foreclosure I had this tremendous credit card debt and so I lost the house anyways. So we try to struggle and survive and we just crash into homelessness. – We did the exact same thing. I had plenty of credit back then. I had the boat, took out the title loan, got a $25,000 title loan on the boat and I was hoping to pay that off ’cause I didn’t wanna lose the boat. Had some work promised, but
then because of the time those jobs fell through and
I fell into homelessness. I came back to the Bay Area, my dad was able to allow me
to move back into his home. Just a short time later, he collapsed with
colon-rectal cancer one night and by the time I found out what he had, they said he only had six months to live and it was a complete shock to me because I wasn’t aware that
my dad was that severely ill ’cause he hid that, he hid it from me. And he survived about
another year and a half. He had some medical insurance because he worked in the shipyards and the federal government, but it wasn’t enough to
cover his assisted living. Assisted living for
him was $3,800 a month, that was 2010 up through
2011 and when he passed away. So $3,800 every month. His medical insurance covered about $1,500 and then he had on-going medical issues that had to be dealt with regularly, plus transport to the
hospital for treatments. And then in his final week of life, he wasn’t even mentally
around in his final week, so it was very devastating. And then the court taking the home from me and that put me out on
the street, literally, ’cause I just grabbed
whatever I was able to salvage from the home because the
court gave an eviction notice, I had a certain amount of time to clear the house of
everything and be gone. (motorcycle engine revs) And so I did that. I sofa-surfed with a lotta
friends up until April of 2013. Went into the shelter up the street, EOCP, East Oakland Community Project, also known as Crossroads,
stayed there for 91 days. They gave me access to a housing list. Housing list was only
available through that shelter and so we didn’t know that
nobody else had access to it, so I did manage to find a slumlord and I had a voucher for
money that would pay my rent, including that for my dogs
that I had at the time. So that was the hardest part, finding anybody who would
accept a homeless person and had pets. All of my advocates that
worked with me at the shelter told me, “You gotta give the dogs up.” – [Mark] Right, right. That’s a huge issue. – Those dogs had been with
me since they were puppies, they’re like you’re children. You can’t give them up. But people say, “Well,
you gotta make a choice, “it’s your dogs or housing.” – [Mark] So you found a slumlord and that didn’t work out well. – That didn’t work out too well. She didn’t wanna fix the problems. Instead, how she fixed her problem was by evicting me in a record 20 days. – [Mark] So then you tented right here. – I came out here.
– By yourself. – Yep. In fact, my first place wasn’t the tent. It was literally behind a hedge,
sandwiched between a plant and the wall of a
building right behind you. Quite literally, ’cause
that was my first year and it took them two weeks to find me I was so well hidden inside of that hedge that they couldn’t see me. The guards here didn’t know I was here, nobody knew I was here. – [Mark] Stealth camping. – Stealth camping.
– I have a homeless friend that calls it stealth camping. – And the other thing
was, was that this area was one of Oakland’s premiere
dumping grounds (chuckles) and so I had plenty of
materials to choose from. A lot of materials were brand new. I had contractors dumping
off brand new insulation, plywood, plastic, I had couches. So there was all sorts
of items to choose from to create my shelter and my home. And then in 2015 when
I was diagnosed myself with colon-rectal cancer, I
ended up moving from there and then starting the tent
because during my recovery period I needed a place to not
only be able to lay out for long periods of times, but
also have my friends help me to do the daily things
that I needed to do, like getting water–
– And you were still homeless? – And I’m still homeless. – [Mark] No respite care? – No, no respite care. Spent six days in the hospital. They knew I was homeless. They had a case worker
from City of Oakland and also social services
trying to find me housing before they released me. – [Mark] There’s just no housing? – There was no housing. – [Mark] So then, ’cause I pick on you, ’cause you were here by yourself and then people start seeing ya. – Yep.
– You gotta hide better. You stopped hiding good, I guess. – I stopped hiding really well– – [Mark] So it grew– – And people just started moving
in, becoming my neighbors, and we got to know each other. We started a community. Literally, we started a community. We watched out for each
other, we shared food, we barbecued together. At night, we’d have security. We would come up with
things for each of us to do, duties, assignments, things that would help further the group. – [Mark] Yeah, yeah. I mean, so there’s 35
people that live here. I don’t know if that’s changed. – Nope, that seems to be a
pretty constant number here. 35 is comfortable. There are days that we
may run a little low and then some days a little higher. – [Mark] And several of the people, I think about half, work. – Yep, mostly people work here. They go to jobs Monday through Saturday. Some have restaurant
jobs, some work at gyms, we used to have a UPS driver here. I mean, a full-blown
UPS driver was homeless and that says a lot, how crazy housing is, if a fellow who’s making
good money as a UPS driver can’t afford to rent an apartment here in the town that he works in. That’s insane. And so have grandmothers here,
we have young adults here, we fill the whole gamut. – [Mark] So you told me how
you got city sanctioned. And what that means is the
City provides Porta Potties, they pick up trash, there’s a hand washing
station provided the City. They know you’re here, the
police aren’t gonna harass you. But how it happened was you were cleaning up the
trash and the City noticed and said, “What’s goin’ on here?” – Well, this isn’t normal. Normally homeless people make the trash, they don’t clean it up. (chuckles) And I got the taggers moved
on, so we removed the taggers. We used to have a lot of crime down here, where cars were being stolen and stripped. That no longer exists. We used to have a lotta johns and prostitutes here throughout
the night, we don’t– – [Mark] It was just a bad area. – Yeah, it was just a
horrible, horrible situation and police weren’t coming here, so that’s what originally brought me here was that there was a lack of
anybody supervising the area. And so I set up shop and
then I didn’t want the crime and so I set out to clean it
up and then everybody noticed. – [Mark] And then the City
came in and sanctioned ya. – The City came in and said,
“We like what you’re doing. “You’re not causing a problem,
you’re solving problems “and we wanna help you.” – [Mark] And recently Invisible People sent a reporter here.
– Mm-hm. – [Mark] One thing I was proud of, that I was able to send a reporter into a tent camp to do a positive story and that got all the way to the City. (train rumbles past)
– Yeah, the City. – [Mark] And sure, BART
goes by right when it, you know, thank you BART. – Mm-hm. – [Mark] How do you guys sleep here? – Well, after a while you
just get get used to it and then the other thing
is, at midnight BART stops. – [Mark] Oh, okay. – BART stops at midnight. – [Mark] Then in the morning,
it’s like alarm clock. – And it starts up again, our first train is about
5:30 in the morning. – [Mark] So anyways, the story got to the
City officials somehow. And I didn’t sent it to ’em, so– – And the city council (BART train rumbling) actually, how the city council got that was that myself and my collective group, we have contacts
throughout the city council and also folks that are in
touch with the city council, and so we gave them the website to– – [Mark] Okay, so you sent it to ’em. – We personally sent that it to ’em. Look at this. Look at this. – [Mark] I was also wondering how they, I didn’t know if they
were trolling me or not. – Well, that one you can thank
your new friend Sam Spade. Sam Spade actually sent
that to Libby Schaaf. – [Mark] Well, thank you Sam. – And Sam sent it to a
few city council people and then the city council saw that and then it just went from there. – [Mark] And you guys, they assigned you a housing coordinator. – Yes, and then it was about a week later the city administrators came
down here, spoke with me, said, “We’re gonna give you a
brand new housing coordinator “to help you with housing.” So that’s where we’ve been now– – [Mark] But there is no housing? – There isn’t any housing. That’s the unfortunate part. So we have a lotta people
that we’ve prioritized. We’ve been able to get some folks who needed to get off the street, we got them off the
street, thank goodness, because hospice issues. Literally hospice. So City’s been very cooperative
in assisting us with that, getting those folks into housing, but then as housing becomes more available we wanna get everybody
here into something. – [Mark] And you’re trying to do something a little more. I hear you’re gonna make a bid for mayor? – Yes. (laughs) I’m actually running for City
of Oakland mayor in 2022. Things are going really well right now. I’m really happy with the progress, my message is getting out there. A lotta folks are
starting to be made aware of all the property that
Oakland actually has to build something and get
the folks off the streets. There’s on there, that’s been
garnering a lot of interest is the 159 acres that was
returned back to Oakland about 30 years ago from
the federal government and Oakland turned down
a $350 million offer from the Wayans Brothers back in 2007 to build a production studio there. So that gives you an idea how
greedy the City of Oakland is and on top of selling it,
they want huge tax dollars in the form of the property tax. – [Mark] But you propose that you could do something like this, a sanctioned tent city– – We can put together a
community of tiny homes, container homes, tents,
and then also RV parking because there’s more than enough room to take at least half
the folks off the street and get ’em into some
temporary transitional housing, longterm transitional
housing because right now the City only talks about
short-term transitional housing, which is six months. Six months, you’re just getting
started on the road to– – [Mark] Nobody can gets their life back in six months.
– Yeah, you can’t. You can’t, it’s impossible. And so we’re talking about a longterm, sustainable model for
folks in West Oakland. And it’s gotten a lot
of interest and then– – [Mark] Well, I wish I lived here so I could vote for you. – (chuckles) I wish I had
more folks like yourself that understand the situation and the needs for all the
housing that could be available, but the City is choosing
profits over people. – [Mark] Well, I’ve interrupted you for almost two weeks now. – It’s been a pleasure. – [Mark] Yeah, I think we
did a couple live streams, we did some feeding, gave away from socks, recorded some videos. I’ve been saying for,
gosh, since I met you that someday I gotta
come visit and here I am. – And here you are. – [Mark] So I just wanna thank ya so much for allowing me to interrupt your week, allowing me to get to meet some of the people in your community. – It’s been quite a pleasure having you. It’s been fun learning
about what you do, Mark. – [Mark] So, I gotta ask. You know this is coming ’cause you watch and you help us out with
our online support group. So, Derek is an admin and he’s homeless and I would not have something
to do with homelessness without homeless people involved. So, you knew this was coming,
you might even be prepared. What’s your three wishes?
(Derek laughs) – Housing, housing, and more housing. – [Mark] You did prepare. – I am prepared.
– You were ready, you were waiting for me. – And that’s what I plan on bringing when I become mayor in 2022, housing, housing, and more housing. – [Mark] Great. Really great spending the week with you. – It’s been a pleasure having you, Mark. And you’re always welcome to come back. – [Mark] I’m thinking you
gotta make me a spot here. – Mm-hm, that’s not a problem. – [Mark] ‘Cause I can’t afford
any of the rent around here. (Derek laughs) – I can make a spot right there. – [Mark] There you go. Well, when you become mayor,
I’ll just take over yours. – Yeah. – The mayor can’t live–
– I’ll just have you on the sofa–
– In a tent city, right? – No, mayor gets to sleep
on the sofa in his office. – [Mark] Ah! – And then I’ll have a
sofa next to that for you. – [Mark] Cool. (echoing tonal electronic music) (chiming)


  1. The good news is in the time since I recorded this interview, Derrick qualified for a new program funded by Kaiser Permanente. Any day now he'll be moving into housing. A few weeks back, gangs broke into Derricks tent and he lost everything again. The housing program will help with rent for a year while Derrick gets back on his feet but he has nothing for his new apartment. If you'd like to help, please click here: https://www.gofundme.com/f/1rf0a5m640

  2. Keeping all your eggs in one basket is foolish. He seems like a smart man, can’t imagine why he would do that. The federal insurance only covers a quarter million.

  3. why wasn't the account FDIC insured? he would have had at least 250k. Should have spread the money between multiple banks as well.,

  4. Americans overspent what they can afford and without a backup and saving. I was unemployed for two years ending up to move from a large city to a low-cost city. Because I can't survive living on the street.

  5. What a wonderful man. I truly believe that he was stripped down to nothing and reduced to sleeping in the hedge in order to start this community. I can't think of a better perspective from which to govern a city.

  6. but i dont understand.ok maybe you put all your stocks in 1 and it goes zero. but what about 500k house and boats ? cant you sell a 500k house and those boats and other house and other shit that you have ?? i dont understand, can someone explain me plz.

  7. for people who always ungrateful I wish you can be in homeless people shoes and homeless people can be in your place.

  8. buying a house and paying it on 30/15 YEAR mortgage lets mortgage company earn a lot from you ranging from 300,000 to no limit and you also have to pay life long INSURANCE + county taxes ….. this is going to create big HOLE on a financial certainty. HONSTELY BUYING it on MORTGAGE IS a disaster waiting to happen.

  9. The same determination that got him to multi millions will get him right back into success. Incredible story.

  10. think i would get out of Californai and go to a cheaper state to live…Georgia, S.C. or othere place…I think you could get a good job and house in one of those places…Maybe you will try that if possible…couldn't hurt///might help

  11. Look at the Free City of Christiania in Copenhagen they created, fought for and protected their own radical PERMANENT self-housing by themselves when the Gov, developers, business and the rest of society was unwilling.

  12. My nephew was homeless for the last year, he died on the streets in Denton Texas 10/03/19, he was 43 and I loved him dearly

  13. Sorry! I got that the investment Firm went Bankrupt and he lost his Savings but, how do you go on to loose 3 Boats and a Million dollar Home!!. Makes no sense!. Sell, and down size the House. Rent out the Boats, and make money doing that! .

  14. THIS IS what i dont get ………why didnt the man pay off these homes …he wouldnt be where he is now……that boggles the mind…..he should have played it safe……then do what you want…..

  15. He sounds very intelligent and I know he can get back on his feet. Praying for his new life in his apartment. Karma will get those scum bags who caused his financial institution to go under. Greedy people always get there’s at the end. Even if they have money doesn’t mean they’re happy and they don’t have problems. Praying for his health as well. These greedy landlords and techies are causing homelessness in CA. This is bullshit.

  16. The truth is nobody can afford a normal house ans cars will be the new housing in the future cars are the future for housing be real more public toilets and parking is the future for housing

  17. I'm a little bit curious because if its true that he has had millions of dollars in one financial institution and when the recession hit it went bankrupt without warning but still by law $250,000 of that millions is insured by the FDIC or NCUA if your using a credit union by Federal Law. How do you go homeless with $250,000 in your pocket thats enough to a buy a nice home in certain parts of the USA and also a car for transportation. MAKES 0 SENCE !!!

  18. He says he lost his millions in "financial institutions"? How? If we can't put our money in banks then where should we put it…

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