He was the first person I saw as I entered the Rite Aid on K Street
His long dark blonde hair tied up in pony tail, skin dark from the sun. I couldn’t tell how old he was, somewhere between mid twenties to mid thirties. He was wearing a Jean jacket and held on to his backpack as if he were holding on to a small child. I said “hi” as I passed him, there was no response. His eyes avoided mine as I walked by. There are many employees posing as customers to combat thefts by the large homeless community downtown.
I saw him again in the juice aisle of the store. Initially he turned towards the aisle and changed his mind and went in the opposite direction. His hand was filled with many travel sized accessories. Toothpaste, deodorant etc. that would fit into his back pack.
I ran into him again as I was looking for AA batteries. This time, he was startled as I stood up. I’m sure he was convinced I worked for the store.
Through the years, I have played dominoes and cards with homeless people in my neighborhood. My old church in San Francisco, has been feeding and assisting homeless individuals for more than forty years. I’m troubled by people who fear people like him or ignore homeless as they pass by.
The homeless aren’t sub humans unworthy of a greeting. Some have grown accustom to the world ignoring them and may be startled by a casual good morning. Imagine a world, where no one spoke to you because you had no place to shower or you were wearing the only clothing you own.
There are few resources for those homeless individuals who have mental issues. Most agencies are severely underfunded in California and many states leaving the burden to cities and counties. Most suburbs and small towns do not have resources for the homeless, some by choice. In many cities well intentioned individuals can be fine for feeding the homeless. One gentleman who became homeless after his mother died in Roseville was told to go to Sacramento. With few choices the majority of nations homeless are in the larger cities.
There are many people who resent the homeless. Believing its a character flaw, they’re weak and lazy. Some believe its intentional or a career goal to get free money from the government.
They can’t fathom ever being homeless. When they hear a story about a couple who met at Campbell Soup and became homeless a year and half after the plant closed, living in their pick up with their three children in various city parks, they blamed parents. There had to be something wrong, they believe friends and family will help them get on their feet.
If you lost your job, do you have a year or six months in savings to pay your mortgage or rent? What would you do if someone didn’t respond to your call for help?
Would never happen, Right!
I don’t know if this man has a substance problem. He has the signs of homelessness based on the people I’ve come across through the years. From time to time, I get it wrong. He may not have a substance problem, he may not be homeless, he may have paid for those items in his hand. What I do know he is a human being and even if he has issues due to his homelessness, he is a full fledged human being nothing less.