Category Archives: #homeless

Drug Dealing

I arrived in San Francisco last Tuesday night, and took the BART subway train to the stop nearest my hotel (which was about 4 blocks away).

I exited the escalator at street level carrying 2 bags, and surely looked confused as I looked for street signs that would help me determine my location.

I was a sitting target.

No sooner had I stepped off the escalator when a kind, homeless, person approached me to offer assistance … with the expectation that I would pay him for the consultation. I tried to resist by telling him that I knew where I was going, and that I would find my way.

While looking down the street I had intended to follow, he said, “Don’t go down that way, there is drug dealing going on down there.” To which I responded, “Oh, I ain’t worried about any drug dealing on the street, I think that’s the way I want to go.”

At that point he got insistent and a bit aggressive, saying “Listen, I am the best dressed homeless person in San Francisco … you should go a different way.”

Well, I did not want to argue with him … and I appreciated the fact that he was not just looking for a handout, that he actually provided directions for an expected tip … so I pulled out a dollar and said, “Okay, what way do you want me to go?” It was nearing dusk as I headed in the direction he suggested.

Today I am returning home, and when I left the hotel for the walk back to the BART station I decided to walk through the neighborhood that my homeless consultant tried to steer me away from. I assumed that he had mentioned drug dealing to ingratiate himself for the purpose of earning a tip, I reasoned that it was merely an effective sales technique. And I knew that there was nothing to fear when I got a half block away from the hotel and passed a young couple pushing a baby carriage.

Then I turned left on Eddy Street.

Suddenly the crowd looked different. Not only were there a number of homeless people gathered in the area, several other individuals were standing on the sidewalk not looking drunk or disheveled. As I walked toward those standing on the sidewalk, no one moved to get out of my way. They gave me a long stare, but one unlike the type of stare that a homeless person gives you.

Honestly, I felt a little fearful at that moment.

Instead of walking into the street to bypass the unmovable crowd, I decided to squeeze through a small opening. I was pulling one suitcase behind me, and I had one large bag slung over my shoulder. As I made my squeeze, the bag on my shoulder smacked a tall dude right in the back.


Fortunately, that was not the end of me. I apologized, and continued on my way.

As I spied several homeless people scattered in front of me, I thought, “What will I do if they all ask me for money at once?” I actually carry a pocketful of change in the city so that I always have something to give, but I did not want to create a scene and gather a crowd around me. So I did what most people in the city do, I stared straight ahead and quickened my pace.

I realize that there are a lot of con artists on the street, but homeless people are just like home-full people in that they need to feel trusted and appreciated.

I am still drunk – I stay drunk

As I walked down a street in San Francisco this morning at 8:30 A.M., I was about to pass by what appeared to be a homeless person.

It seems that homeless people don’t tend to just walk by, they slow as you are about to pass, and they try to read your demeanor to determine if you might be inclined to give them some money or even talk to them. It also seems that most people ignore the homeless by looking straight ahead and quickening their pace.

So today as I was about to pass this person, I could feel his eyes looking straight at me … and when I looked at him, he said, “I am still drunk. I stay drunk.” He even said it with something of a smile on his face.

I felt sad for him. Sad because he probably does spend most of his waking hours inebriated. He probably starts the day (or night) with some alcohol, and continues drinking until he falls asleep. What a sad, foggy, unfruitful life. Alcohol abuse can really paralyze and impoverish someone.

It seems that there are lots of homeless people in San Francisco, everywhere you turn there is someone with their hand out, or calling out to you asking for some change. When I shared this observation with one of the locals, it was explained to me that toward the end of the Reagan Administration a federal program was cut which funded a local social service facility that assisted poor folks diagnosed with mental sickness. When the funding was cut, all of these people were turned loose on the street with no access to the medication they need, and many became homeless.

I was also told that residents of San Francisco are sympathetic to the plight of the homeless. And feeling that sympathy, combined with the temperate climate here, the homeless have chosen to stay here … in large numbers.

Thinking about the gravity and prevalence of homelessness still has me in a stupor … and I stay in a stupor.