So often these days my heart breaks at the suffering in the world. In San Francisco, the unhomed population is staggeringly large especially for a city with gargantuan wealth. The problem seems to worsen by the minute and it feels insurmountable. There is increasingly less and less for more and more people. Ever since I moved here in the 90’s, I’ve been consumed by this homeless dilemma. The encampments are everywhere and many are on median strips or under overpasses amid the roar of traffic. I wonder what constitutes those choices. I try and put myself in their shoes and I look for places I might go to set up a transitional shelter should I find myself on the streets. Where would I feel safest? Where would I go to the bathroom or clean up and how would I eat or work to change my lot? How does one spend their days without a place to call home, somewhere protected from the elements? Homelessness is one lost paycheck or medical or mental health crisis away if you don’t have family and friends who can catch you if you fall. I’ve watched a dear friend navigate the system to keep a roof over their head and the truth is that there are too many cracks to fall through. Their family of origin is all gone and they lost their job due to the pandemic and their benefits ran out months and months ago. They don’t have a drug or alcohol problem. They do struggle with depression and anxiety but they manage it with medication although their situation would make anyone depressed and stressed and anxious. They got evicted because they couldn’t pay their rent and it takes forever to get services if you even get them at all. It’s tragic. The homed folks like to point out the substance addiction and mental illness on the streets and sure, it’s out there but it isn’t the only reason someone finds themselves without a roof over their head. This black and white thinking is dismissive and is a way of putting the problem in a box and labelling it Lost Causes. Sure, the streets are full of trash and tents take up many a sidewalk and unkempt and strung-out people mill about or lie about sometimes doing unseemly things. But they are not a monolith, they are human beings who need the same basics that anyone who is not down and out need – food, water, shelter, services, love, compassion. We think it couldn’t happen to us but there are so many people on the streets who thought the same thing.
Gratitude Thursday Writing Prompt ~ Write about your home, your shelter and all the basics you have that you take for granted each day. Bathe them in gratitude.