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.