Around 3AM the other night, i was walking home from “exercise” when a man asked me for a quarter. All i had in my pocket was a $20, some smokes, an ID and my keys. I shrugged and said, sorry, i didn’t have any money. And then i spent the rest of my walk tormenting myself about my reaction, about having lied.
The homeless situation in San Francisco haunts me. Nothing horrifies me more than the privileged folks i know who look at the folks on the street with disgust as though they deserve to be there for something they’ve done. Of the groups that i’ve talked to, there seem to be three distinct homeless populations:
– youth who come from abusive environments and escape to SF because the streets are safer than home
– mentally ill folks who would be better off in a care facility but since we don’t have that infrastructure, they’re on the streets
– folks who don’t have the network structure, skills or opportunities to get out of the perpetual state of poverty (think: Subdivision
I hate the part of me that immediately thinks “well, i earned my money; i deserve to keep it” because, frankly, that’s bullshit and i know it. So then i’m confused about what inside me runs to that excuse. Or to the million other excuses that my brain generates to justify why i am (not) giving money in a particular situation.
There are days when i find myself spending an extra $1 to take MUNI to BART so that i don’t have to walk by the homeless folks on 16th. It brings me great heartache to witness this level of struggle. And yet, what is that avoidance about? That’s not a healthy response either. And where does it come from? I know i’m not alone; folks run to their gated communities and suburbs to not have to deal. Of course, ignorance increases the problem. The visibility is critical for people to realize that this is a real endemic problem and seek solutions. But yet, ignorance is bliss.
I often give out food to folks, but sometimes i think this is more to assuage my guilt than to actually do any good. And that makes me feel more guilty.
What can one do? Homeless issues tend to be the key factor in my local voting choices, but look what good that is doing. ::sigh:: How do other folks resolve their emotions around this issue? How do you actually do something?