Homelessness

I see two major cities every day of my workweek: Oakland and San Francisco.

I pass through their downtowns.

I see lots of homeless people.

Clustered in the dark doorways, around short brick retainers, leaning against fences, and sometimes just desperately prone against collapsed cardboard like a lost fight against a magnified gravity. Maybe behind a shopping cart. Maybe under a tattered blanket.

I saw a homeless man step onto an uphill BART escalator and within the ten second ride to the top, had urinated all over the side panels by the time he got to the top. It splashed all over the side walls, then dripped between the brush side stuff that I have no idea the purpose for, then disappeared amidst the steely jaws of the stairs. I was a good way down the escalator from him, and I wanted to say something like, “Hey, man, how’s it going? Y’know, your pee right there? That’s pretty disgusting, please don’t do that. You make our public transit station smell like you. Oh, and it’s pretty fucking disgusting.”

But I held my words because:

1. I was not in a position to argue.
2. I was definitely not in a position to argue.

My immediate fear was that he would not only give no shits what I thought, but he would also flippantly divert his stream my way. And it’s not like I can stop this guy from doing the same thing tomorrow. Practically every establishment downtown has a sign reading: No Public Restrooms, Please Don’t Ask. Where else was he going to go? May as well use the escalator while it’s bringing him somewhere… I guess… <shudder>

And so this dude pisses on the escalator. Brutal. I don’t even want to know what he has to do to poop.

Anyway, right after he gets off the escalator, he’s walking in front of me, meets up with a drug dealer, and they slap hands (exchanging their appropriate items) and smoothly part ways. I wonder if the drug dealer knows where those hands have been. So much dealing.

Well, it just bugs me. You might have a grand time of it, too. First off, ride BART and have fun on there. Then, I dare you to walk through UN Plaza and not be depressed at the sight of homelessness there. Right on Market onto Grove, sharp right at the big fancy City Hall, walk fifty paces, can’t miss ’em.

I don’t know what the point of this post is. I don’t have any solutions. I don’t even know all the causes of homelessness. It just bugs me, and I want to know how to create solutions and understand their problems. That’s not going to happen by giving the same dude a dollar every day after work. Or telling the guy pissing on the escalator that there are other ways he can relieve his issues.

I want homeless people to not be homeless if they don’t want to be, and I want the homeless people who don’t give a rat’s ass about other people to either grow up or go form their own homeless colony on the moon or in underwater bubbles. But how to make this happen is beyond me right now and obviously beyond the city and state and nation and society. Gosh blam it. Shit.

*UPDATE
This article came out the day after I wrote this post: http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/S-F-takes-data-driven-approach-to-poop-5621384.php

I’m optimistic but don’t color me shocked me if it doesn’t work.

Which, I suppose means I’m not that optimistic.

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