Sickboy May 31, 2005
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Imagine yourself and your family out in San Francisco on a sunny Saturday afternoon, taking in the sights and maybe getting a bite to eat at Pier 39. Maybe you hit the Haight and do some shopping, take a stroll through Golden Gate Park, ride the 71 Haight-Noriega to the Cable Car and finally get that long-awaited off-season Alcatraz tour. How many homeless people do you think you saw just then, how many asked you for a cigarette or some change, how many did you see sipping a cool 40oz. in a doorway? How many?
As for San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, he only saw 5,642 - according to a February 15, 2004 article in The Examiner, an article that also just happened to tout his Care Not Cash program as one of the main reasons for what City Hall calls a 41% drop in the homeless population from 8,640 in 2002
It seems to me that someone is being left out. Quite a few someones are being excluded from this census and I believe itís due to one major oversight: The standard for homeless-ness. Are you only homeless if you push a shopping-cart or hide a bottle of Carlo Rossi under your waistcoat? What about chronically homeless kids crashing at their friendís houses to escape the sounds of their parents fighting, kids who donít sleep in doorways or shelters but in squats around the city that most of the populace donít even know exist? What about Hunters-Point Ė a place the hardest taxi driver I know wonít catch a fare to no matter what the tip Ė what about China Basin and the endless piers of South Beach. How many volunteers did you get to walk around there during the wee-hours of the night? People with business in those neighborhoods donít want to be there, people with a reason for their presence get shot at regularly; how is it you just walked around with complete autonomy just counting people?
What about me? Iíve been homeless most of my life. Iíve never signed a lease or paid rent to a landlord.
Iíve spent more time on couches in this city than I have in any public doorway or park bench.
The same article went on to state that, ďThe latest homeless count, which is required every two years by the federal government, took place Jan. 25ÖĒ just one day. You took one day to count all the people in San Francisco? Maybe if you were only counting the people at Civic Center Bart on a rainy day. What time of day was it? How many hours did you spend, did you count for twenty-four hours straight? Which neighborhoods /locations did you visit, which didnít you visit? The article continues by saying, ďÖ250 volunteers made their way from encampment to encampment and doorway to doorway to get an estimate of how many people were sleeping outside.Ē
So thatís it then Gavin, only the people that sleep outside where you were at that exact time, in shelters, rehab and transitional housing count as homeless? Well Iím going to have to say that even with that massive amount of people you had volunteering and working around the clock for one whole whopping day, I think youíre missing a couple, maybe even a couple thousand. Maybe even tens-of-thousands of human beings, human beings that just happened to be taking a powder when you drove through their neighborhood making your thorough count in your mid-size sedan.
When someone is homeless in San Francisco itís not as though theyíre always going to be sleeping in the same place, or sleeping at all. Aside from getting kicked out of squats and busted, there are just some nights that there isnít anywhere to stay. Did your people stop every person they saw ďdressed homelessĒ walking by that day or pushing a shopping-cart whether or not they were actually homeless, did they? How do you define homeless? I know that some days I look ďless homelessĒ than others, some days I get to shave, shower and maybe get some clean clothes; however, whether or not I appear homeless, fly a sign that reads ďhomeless please help, god bless.Ē or sleep outdoors Ė Iím still homeless. Did you count me?
Sure those figures look good to you, to the City and County of San Francisco and a good chunk of the people here in our Beloved City, but they look a little over-optimistic to me. Iím not trying to rain on your ticker-tape-parade or anything pal; but accountability, fair practices and honesty are still in-vogue when it comes to the little guy. Iím the little guy by the by, and I think youíre just a little ways off the mark. Why am I so upset by this, Iíll tell you why. Your numbers stink of popularity-contest, one night of counting by 250 people vs. one year of counting by the combined resource providers of this city.
If you want to have the world think youíre cleaning up the streets of San Francisco, then clean them up, donít lie about it with a controlled census that couldnít possibly cover the entire City/County of San Francisco. If you want everyone to hold you in such high-esteem, then do something to gain esteem, donít just throw numbers in the faces of people you view as statistics and expect us to choke it down. Weíve gotten treated like numbers for long enough and weíve certainly got your number now.
So if you donít mind, Iím going to go be unnoticeably homeless now and try to make some money for a burrito and some smokes without getting accidentally counted.
to see article about Gavinís Count go here
to see info on Homelessness go to www.homeless-coalition.org
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