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The Homeless Problem…

April 30, 2011

One often gets tired of reading about the homeless problem in San Francisco, hearing about it at coffee shops and bars, on the Bart, Muni and various eclectic gatherings places like the Carl’s Jr off Hallidae Plaza, oh, and the comments sections after newspaper articles? Jesus…people of the city ranting about street-kids in the Haight, or bitching about the issues in the Tenderloin or otherwise just tearing on people they don’t know, oftentimes for problems they don’t understand. It would seem many San Franciscans just wish they would all go away, rather than clutter up their sidewalks, take their tax dollars and beg for change at every turn.

Well, it’s easy to make those comments, just as it’s easy to dismiss people and their problems out of hand…really easy. It’s also simple to condemn non-profits in San Francisco for advocating on behalf of homeless rights, asking for compassion, empathy and just a little bit of fucking understanding…

Ya can hear it now…

“What do you mean understanding? How much money have you guys been given and what kind of improvements do we see? Understanding my ass…”

Fair enough from a purely observational standpoint, but the reality is for every fixed situation, the economy throws somebody else out of their apartment or the Greyhound brings in another person in need of answers…well, if you really want to solve the homeless problem in San Francisco, the solution is rather simple…just talk to your favorite weather guy, see what he can do about bringing in some snow or turning the summers up several notches.

So long as San Francisco is one of the few places in the United States where people can successfully count on a certain median temperature, meaning people outside won’t freeze to death in the winter or die of heat exposure in the summer, well, you’re going to have a homeless problem.

So, you’re going to have to deal with it.

Beyond that, homeless people oftentimes like San Francisco for the same reason a lot of other people do…they are natives, or they like the nice views, the ocean breezes and this town’s cultural history…not that any of these things make it any easier.

Far from it.

You know that guy you stepped around, passed out in an alley down the way from Quetzal’s on Polk Street? In the rotting clothes, in his own urine, maybe hooked on heroin or meth or crack, maybe mentally ill…yeah, that guy, the one sitting in the sun looking like he’s got no friends, no family and nothing to do. Well, you think that alley seat was his life’s fucking ambition, that when he was in high school he listed this place in life as his main goal?

I’m guessing, probably not.

Shit happens to get people where they are, winding up on the streets. I’ve worked with a lot of homeless people who had more education than I did, but I also had a supportive family, all my experimentation never led to a habit, I never had a psychotic break when I was in college. I wasn’t molested, abandoned to PTSD after fighting in a war, never lost my job, suffered from severe anxiety or a crippling depression, never went to prison and became so institutionalized I lost the ability to function, never suffered from a serious head injury, got the shit kicked out of me for a decade by a spouse, got lured to this country with promises of a job only to find out that my uncle’s plan was instead to turn me out in a massage parlor…nope, none of that ever happened to me.


Yeah, but you made it, so they must be lazy. I’m sure your resilience and work ethic were all you needed, and if it was…good for you and sincerely, give yourself a pat on the back because you’re quite the exception, and for the rest of you that found a mentor somewhere, maybe felt cared for at some time, or had anyone in your family to lean on…stop lying to yourself and everybody else.

And this brings me to the Tenderloin.

More and more people are moving into the Tenderloin…and the only people it seems who don’t like to complain about homelessness there either don’t work for the non-profits or aren’t receiving their services. They love to express their appreciation for the arts in the TL, the cheaper rent, the dive bars, the street art, the architecture, the central location within the city, the writing scene, the diversification of people and the multi-cultural everything and of course, the Vietnamese sandwiches…everything but the homeless people.

I agree, it’s a great place to be…but you really think a lot of the people homeless in the Tenderloin or more importantly, boxed into the SRO’s are necessarily happy about it?

Not most of those  I worked with, nope, they complained about the drugs, the bugs, the shitty landlords and the crime too, but they don’t have a choice. It’s the only place in town where they can afford the rent. Not unless Russian Hill, Nob Hill, Hayes Valley, the Castro or any other assorted neighborhoods want to suddenly okay subsidized housing on their block.


So if on a fixed income, or working shit jobs you get the Tenderloin and maybe a couple of places in the Mission, if they haven’t already been evicted from there. Many don’t have a choice, but many of the scenesters, well…they do, so help out, suck it up or head elsewheres. The homeless were here first. And don’t get me wrong…I like the art too, and I’ve probably sat next to you at Koko’s reading a book at some point or time, but I also try to accept the overall reality of the situation and then do what I can to help out, rather than spit on them, physically, verbally or both.

Now, I know I’m not speaking to all of you scenesters…so if it’s not you, don’t take it personal but if it is…well, go ahead then.

Personally, I find peoples’ struggles to survive inspiring…and if I can make it a little easier somehow, sometimes, well good…because I do believe that on some level, we are all in this together and I also understand that not everybody’s first attempt at making it, or being clean will work. Old habits die hard, ever try to give up your can of PBR?

I don’t care if somebody relapses 50 times, how do you know attempt #51 won’t be the time he or she finally makes it? You don’t, so you keep working and ya keep giving a fuck…people are people after all.  

Now, A lot of homeless critics also like to complain about people coming in from out of town as if the only homeless people in the city of San Francisco relocated to the Bay area after they became homeless. Not true at all. From my work, I can honestly say that the economic climate is tough all over and very tough on these there hills and a growing number have lived here a long time, hell, some are even natives.

And anyways, what good does it do for you to be an asshole about it?

Makes ya feel better?

Well good, I’m glad because man, if ya take the time to comment in the newspapers, bitch about the problem, chances are it’s always been about you anyway.

Not that me…me…me…is just a San Francisco problem, it’s a national problem. It’s a Democrat and a Republican problem. It’s a Bernal Heights and an Outer Sunset problem. It’s a people problem.

So…help out, or peddle it elsewhere where somebody might listen, commiserate with you on how difficult it is to have all your responsibilities when all those homeless people just get to kick back and smoke crack all day. In my opinion, you really haven’t thought this thing through enough.

And no, I didn’t write this in some vain attempt to change your mind, build up some sensitivity to your perceptions on the many challenges people face around you…every day. I really don’t have a lot of hope in that…though if ya did change your mind, that’d be swell…

Essentially I just wrote this to throw my two cents in on the subject, because I can, and say that if your response to homelessness is to just wish they’d all go away and leave your beautiful city alone?

Well then…

Fuck off.

Have a nice day.

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