Skyrocketing rent prices, lack of space, mild weather and liberal policies have led to a homeless epidemic in San Francisco that’s apparent around almost every corner. And contrary to what small-town conservatives might think, I’ve seen practically every walk of life wallowing in the gutter. Aggressive white kids. Old black guys. A well-dressed lady from India breast-feeding a kid while another sleeps nearby in a stroller. Some are daily fixtures. Some seem to be just passing through. They all make you feel guilty about something—like sometimes not feeling guilty at all.
I don’t have an answer. I’m not even sure where to begin asking questions. But I’ve adopted the routine of a typical, heartless asshole: I don’t hand out money and I generally don’t even engage in conversation. It’s not lack of empathy, it’s more like a general feeling of helplessness.
Tough act aside, my early-morning treks to work are the outings that bother me the most. My rush to get to work coincides with the sleeping schedule of many of the homeless in the neighborhood. The vulnerability and harsh reality of having no place to go really smacks you in the face when you see someone curled up next to a building using a trash bag as a blanket.
Destitute people snoring outside stores full of expensive, mostly worthless stuff is one thing, but it was the absurd irony of seeing a homeless guy sleeping in the doorway of a mattress store that really got me a few days back. Seeing his head resting on the cement while a row of fluffy white princess beds sparkled just over his shoulder sparked a feeling of disbelief and hopelessness that my feeble mind had trouble processing.
I stood there for a second or two and nearly got rear-ended by a fast-moving pedestrian trying to take a client call on the sidewalk. The sleeper began to stir as the fluorescent lights inside the store came on row by row. Life kept moving and so did I—reminding myself to never take my fluffy bed for granted again.