Monica Villa — a homeless Mercedian who ran for mayor in 2018 and hopes to be on the ballot again come November — said she is returning to the streets after a short time taking cover from the coronavirus.
“I know how to take care of myself — I’m homeless,” she told the Times during a curbside interview in a residential neighborhood. “The people in charge, they don’t care. They are leaving me and my family [fellow homeless people] out here to brave the elements … and I guess if we catch the virus and pass it on, than that’s OK with them.”
For the past weeks, after the news of the virus and stay-at-home orders came down, Villa says she has been couch surfing wherever she can.
At one point recently, she also participated in a group teleconference with Congressman Jim Costa, and she was able to ask him: What are you going to do about the homeless? … Where am I going to be safe?
According to Villa, Costa gave a “long-winded answer” about massive funding coming to the valley from the federal government to boost public health care institutions, support food security providers and aid unemployed workers and small businesses.
Villa said it “wasn’t an answer.”
“I’m out here livin’ la vida, and the things our leaders have promised, and what they say they’re going to do, ain’t happening,” she said. “Why don’t they put us at the fairgrounds? Why don’t they put us up at the base [Castle]? … Where is the hand sanitizer? Where do we go to the restroom? How do we clean up after ourselves? … These people really don’t care.”
County and city leaders began the year touting new, unprecedented measures to address the region’s homeless crisis, including a new “navigation” service center / shelter in Merced, as well as the opening of 10 mini centers in rehabilitated homes across the rural landscape. A new emergency shelter in Merced was going to consist of re-purposed shipping containers as housing units. The project was touted as having the ability of being opened nearly a year ahead of schedule, with work starting to take shape this month, in April.
The Times has put in requests for comment from county officials, and is waiting for a response. In the meantime, Villa said she was going to make a stand out on the streets, along with her pet dog “Dori-fish.”
“I believe in God,” she said. “It’s in God’s hands. Read the Bible. People have lost faith in God, and now He is asking us: ‘Are you going to believe now?’”
Villa said she is confident she will survive as she tries to help herself and others during the pandemic. She urged people to register to vote, and take the time to read up on all of the candidates running for election on the November ballot.
When asked if she was indeed serious about another mayoral run, Villa responded: “Oh hell yeah.”
In 2018, she ran against incumbent Mayor Mike Murphy, and garnered 32.15 percent of the vote, or 5,439 votes. Previous to that, she also had an unsuccessful run for a seat on the City Council among several candidates.