San Francisco’s No 1 problem

Wednesday, September 19 2007

San Francisco has a huge problem that only newbies (like me) seem to talk about, the vast number of homeless people in this city.

Every single time I am out and about, there are always some beggars around approaching asking for money. I am simple not used to it and I don’t see why I should.

I have noticed that they have their ‘own’ street corner and I rarely see more then one beggar at each intersection. To me, that indicates that there is some sort of social order among them. If they can coupe within that social order, why not do this within the ‘normal’ society?

Some of them are bound to have mental and/or drug problems and frankly if they have, I am not so sure I want their unpredictable behaviour out on the street. It is treatment they should have, not cash.

Then there is Market Street … Market street is an unused asset of San Francisco. It could be a great parade street – almost like Paris’ Champs-Élysées, with shops, restaurants etc. Instead it is a run-down, filthy street with lots of homeless people. Only from 5th St to the Ferry building is the good part (beggars are there too though).

On average once a week, while walking the street of SF, the smell will be so bad that I gag. Sometimes it is the sewers, sometimes it is the homeless. I avoid the Trans-Bay Bus terminal at all cost, I will walk around that block even though the shortest way is through / underneath it.

Here is two things from recent memory:

1. While walking pass a sleeping place (heap of boxes, trash) for a homeless – the smell was awful – I saw this big fuckoff rat in the middle of it. I was wearing flip flops and felt so damn exposed. I screamed, ran, jumped away.

2. A homeless man was walking his (??) cat on a leash at a construction site. The cat was severely pissed off. The guy kept yanking the leash and pulling the cat around. I mean, was this fucking man in a rush? He had put up his sleeping box 10 meters away. At least, give the cat some time to walk around. I was so upset of what I saw, but what could I do? Call the SFPD?

I have heard these stories that other cities bus their homeless to SF (allegedly Seattle). True or not, the problem is here and it will not go away.

Maybe SF is known to be a generous city but it sure as hell is causing trouble if this attracts more homeless people. Those few times I have been walking passed Essex Street (onramp to the Bay Bridge) and I have seen drivers hand out money to that same guy who always stand there. He is making lots of money – certainly more then me.

The short term solution is to get that damn California driver licence, buy a car to not have to walk around in SF or move to the suburb. But the problem would still be there.

The thing that really bothers me is that San Francisco is supposedly social aware, liberal city but it only goes so far. I have not seen any progress for the year I have been here. It is like all those people that drive their big trucks to Whole Food to buy organic produce.

In London, there used to a problem with homeless people however enough investments were made so there are more shelter beds then homeless people. The public was informed NOT to give any money to them and it worked.

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