We have our share of homeless people in San Francisco. While it is not as bad as downtown, there are quite a few in our neighborhood, and many of them live in Golden Gate Park. I don't give money directly to panhandlers, but have given donations to groups that help the poor and homeless.
I do have sympathy for these people. I have never been homeless, but I have gone through tough financial times due to unemployment and illness of a spouse. Fortunately I have family and friends who were able to loan me money and or feed me so I never lost my apartment. I feel for the homeless, I wonder if they are just alone in the world and don't have anyone to help them get back on their feet.
Of course, some are battling more than the loss of a job, they are fighting addictions, or other demons. I can't fathom getting to a place in my life where I would just give up fighting and decide to live on the streets. Can you imagine the loss of dignity? Having to beg for money? What it is like to be afraid to go to sleep because someone might steal your things or beat you for no reason?
I really have mixed feelings. It makes me angry that I can't walk through parts of the park because it is filled with filth that campers have left behind. When I'm sitting in a restaurant I don't want someone begging me for money anymore than I would want a Girl Scout to try to sell me cookies.
Today K. and I got on the streetcar and heard a horrible commotion. Someone was leaning out the back door making awful noises that sounded like vomiting. Another person was holding on to him. Most of the passengers in the back half of the car looked horrified. I stopped short and turned K.'s attention onto something out the window.
After a couple minutes I saw a single person stagger off the train. He was wearing shorts and had enormous bandages wrapped around his legs up to his knees. His legs were swollen and I could see purple above the bandages. I watched him limp to a signpost and lean against it, head down. Turns our the awful sounds I heard were not from retching, and the other passenger wasn't helping him be sick. He was screaming in pain, and the other person was trying to help him down the steps and off the train.
It reminded me of something a co-worker said many, many years ago when we were talking about the homeless. Isn't it a wonder to think that every person was once someone's precious little baby? That people that others think of as trash were cuddled and loved and were the center of attention and their parents had hopes and dreams for them. I think about that often. I know there are unwanted children, but many of these are given in adoption to parents who think they are precious.
So I was sad as the train pulled away leaving the lost and suffering soul on the corner. I did the only thing I could think of. I gave my precious little baby boy a big hug and kiss.