Now if you’ve ever been to San Francisco, you know about the plethora of homeless people scattered along Market, Powell, Montgomery, Haight, basically anywhere in the city and you’re used to it. San Francisco is known for being pretty temperate year round, the summer being strangely foggy and never really getting above 70 and the rest of the year being very similar, so it is not surprising that it has become a prime city for the homeless. When I first moved to the city I was still surprised by the amount of people living on the street, and was startled by the crazy ranting and screaming. Now, the types of people living on the street range from people my age all the way up to people who are old enough to deserve their own personal care, and you never know what they are going to say or how they will go about getting donations. Some people merely leave a cup, decorated with dollar bills and some quarters on a good day, sitting next to them on the sidewalk. Others have a cute canine companion, tugging at the heartstrings of passersby. (On a side note although my home is not my own, my new residence at my cousin’s house has given me something similar to wake up to every morning. Meet Vinny)
The most popular choice would have to be the infamous cardboard and Sharpie sign, calling on the creativity of the person to draw a person in. Some comment on someone’s need for food and money, while others barrel straight to the comedy with lines such as “Smile if you masturbate” and “Why lie? Need money for weed!”
This brings up the guilt and dilemma that I face as I walk past, ignoring the attempts of everyone tying to make some money. Some people on the street are actually insane, and if you don’t ignore them and avoid eye contact, you will get a whole lot of screaming and confrontation all up in your grill. How do you know if somebody is going to freak out or if they truly are hungry or just need some spare change for a BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) pass? As I learned from Avenue Q’s The Money Song, “When you help others, you can’t help helping yourself.” But how do you know when you are helping, or if you are supporting somebody’s drug or drinking habit? Sure it’s easy to spot a puppet in need, who was kicked out by his roommate after trying to coax his friend out of the closet, but real people aren’t that simple. And to add more variables into this complicated pot, there are the street performers. As a fellow performing artist who carries a limited amount of change in his wallet, I feel for people trying to make it and am inclined to donate my meager amount of coins to support people putting forth an effort. For example, the silver guy on Powell St
who pretends to be a statue and then shakes his tip cup at an extremely startled girl, causing her to jump and scream, made me laugh for blocks. Doesn’t that deserve my money? Although I am a lowly college student, I have lived a privileged life, whereas some of these people may have never gotten a real chance to succeed. So as I walk downtown with my ipod stopping the voices of those in need front entering my ears, I continue to wonder, is it ever easy to help those in need?
Until Next Time,