As you all know, or will find out in due course, I’m a real softie when it comes to the homeless. The thought of someone sleeping on a street on a cold or rainy night, someone starving whilst watching others eat or being looked down upon by society breaks my heart. Homelessness is sadly something that occurs globally, no matter the wealth or size of the country or city. However, I must say, San Francisco seems to have significantly more homelessness than anywhere I’ve been before.
The question I have is why? Why are there SO many homeless people in San Francisco? I have a few possible thoughts, but of course these are by no means be all and end all, and by no means account for every homeless life.
San Francisco is located in the lovely warm state of California. Apart from the occasional rain and the fog, the weather is pretty sweet compared to places further up (and much colder). If you’re going to sleep on the streets you might as well do it somewhere warm, somewhere you won’t freeze to death.
San Francisco is a wealthy city. Whilst this wealth, gentrification and high rent prices are likely the reason some people are homeless, the wealth of its citizens can come in handy. Richer people have more money to burn, or hopefully, to drop into one of the many outstretched cups of the city’s needy.
In the same vein, San Francisco is a very beautiful city. Like the rest of us, homeless people want to live somewhere that looks nice. Somewhere that makes you smile when the sun comes out and lights up the beautiful buildings or sparkles on the water. San Francisco has that, and its beauty could be a reason why many homeless continue or choose to live there.
Hand in hand with the city’s beauty is the huge volume of tourists that flock to the city each year. Myself included. It is almost impossible to walk by a homeless person at night, when your stomach is full after a lovely meal on your way back to your lovely hotel, and not feel a pang of guilt or sympathy that they are likely hungry and cold. Hence, many tourists will drop a few dollars into those cups, or pass on their doggy bags of left overs. After all, if you can afford to visit and stay in San Francisco, it’s likely you can afford to spare a bit of change. On a darker note, another advantage of tourists is that they present plenty of opportunities for theft. Many tourists are unaware of the streets that should be avoided, or let their naivety render them victims to mugging a. Tourists have expensive phones, cameras, gadgets and often wallets stuffed with money. It’s not a very nice thought, but in times of desperation, it can seem like an easy option.
One thought that occurred to me when I was noticing the cities homeless was “why are so many people missing limbs?”. Now I must confess, I know very little about the US healthcare system, medicine or medical insurance. In the U.K. we have the wonderful NHS, which will provide exceptional medical care to anyone. But perhaps it is cheaper to cut off a limb than treat a problem with it? Or perhaps, because healthcare is so expensive, people may put off having that it or rash seen to, until it is too late and the whole limb is infected and needs to go? Or maybe if you lose your job, and the medical insurance that comes with it, amputation becomes the cheaper option if there is an issue with a limb. This particularly upsets me, as being homeless is hard enough, yet alone being disabled and homeless. Losing both your legs severely restricts the jobs you can do, further embedding you into the downward spiral of homelessness and poverty.
This post is just a few of my thoughts, nothing particularly wonderful or well researched, but it comes from the heart. San Francisco is beautiful, and I have loved , my time here, but I cannot leave with a clear mind. I am going to set aside some time over the coming months, years – however long it takes to further explore this problem. I cannot say any more on the matter how, as I have not had a chance to properly look into it (I am writing this on the plane), but hold tight- it is not the last you’ve heard on the matter!
San Francisco, I love you, and I hope I have not caused offence. If you live in the city, or have visited the city, please feel free to leave a comment or message me as I would love to hear more.
Until the next post my lovelies