I have mentioned in previous posts how I have been struck with the extent of homelessness and those begging for money, both in LA and San Francisco. This post puts all of my thoughts in one place and some new observations.
Apparantly California is home to great numbers of these people because of the milder weather. Sleeping outdoors on the streets is then much more tolerable.
Homelessness is a real problem in the USA and can be attributed to a number of reasons: deinstitionalising of the mentally ill, widespread drug abuse, alcoholism, destruction of skid row areas and especially income inequality and the demise of low rent housing. (Homelessness in California)
Here are a number of photos I have taken that show part of its face to the public.
This first one shows a man with a sign letting people know what he wants and a cup in front for passersby to put the money.
The next photo shows a homeless person with all of their belongings on a trolley that they take with them wherever they go.
Then there are others who do some sort of act or performance to get money. This guy was cleverly juggling witches hats and when he stopped he would go from car to car asking for cigarettes. I watched him for a while and did get some success.
Here are a number of other observations I witnessed that were a real eye-opener for me:
* Some people had animals displaying signs to get some money
* Many of the homeless approached people with a cup and asked for money – “Would you have any small change?”
* There were all ages of people asking for money. Some openly asked for money for food, rent, drugs or booze. There were by far many more men.
* Many of the homeless collected drink bottles (plastic or glass) as they could get a refund (5c). They would go from bin to bin collecting these and then take them to a recycling centre. We saw one that was open 24 hours a day. You could see this as being quite effective as a couple of dollars can get you a meal here.
* I saw a number of people using the bins for food, drink and even partly smoked cigarettes.
* Some of the creative ones (especially those who used animals) had signs that asked for $1 if you wanted to take a photo.
* When I stayed in the hotel in Powell St (SF main street) many were there each day and had their own territory that they operated from.
* There were a number of times we had to walk around people who were sleeping in the street.
Being in your face it really tugged on the heart strings to see these people in such a bad state and I wanted to give them ‘something’…. But there was so much of it, and I was asked so often that I tended to get hardened to the approach and so “sorry, I can’t help’ was always the answer.
We went to one church in the city called Glide Memorial who did much work for the homeless in providing meals.It seems as though there is not much government funding for the problem and community organisations have had to meet the need.
So, what is the answer to this problem was my constant question? What can these people do for themselves to end the cycle of homelessness and to earn some money?
On the plane over here I watched a movie called the soloist (based on a true story) which was about a homeless person who played the cello. A newspaper reporter befriended him and tried to make a difference to his life. At the end of the movie it said that LA had around 90,000 homeless people. This was a fitting introduction to the problem I was soon to witness every day.