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San Francisco Treat

I pull into a gas station in San Francisco.  I'm looking for my hotel in Union Square and the maze of one way streets has me beat.

It doesn't help that it is late at night.  Three hours off of my normal time zone.  After a six hour plane flight.  And me without my glasses.

I'm slightly nearsighted.  Not enough to require glasses.  In fact, I passed the eye test for my drivers license without them.  But the truth is that I see distant things clearer with glasses.  Particularly at night.  And it is night.  And I'm tired.

My glasses are in a rental car in Boston.  One that happens to be the same model and even color as the one I am riding in now.  Actually, as I write this, they are in an Airborne express envelope on their way back home.

Anyway, I am in a gas station.  Tired and lost.  And before I can get out of the car, up walks a black man.  Disheveled.  A hint of gray in his unkempt hair.  With some rags in one hand.

He asks me where I am trying to go.  I tell him the name of the hotel I am looking for.  He points off to my left, tells me to cross Market street, and tells me where to turn after that.

I thank him.

At this point, the man tells me that he is homeless.  And explains that the rags are what he uses to clean windshields.  And asks me if I can spare some change.

I reach into my pocket and pull out a bill.  It is a ten.  I hold it out.

He looks shocked.  It almost seems as if he had never seen such a large denomination bill before.  He tentatively reaches out.  I gesture that it is OK.  He uncertainly takes the bill.  He looks thrilled and thankful.

I drive away.  At the light, I look back.  He gone.

I slept well that night.


With ten dollars he must have been able to buy a lot of Mad Dog. 

Seriously, though, you should check out the homeless guy's blog - http://thehomelessguy.blogspot.com/

Interesting look at homelessness from a first-person perspective.

Posted by Jon the Hobo at

Nice story. (Sorry to hear you forgot your glasses in a rental car though.)

My wife and I have given a homeless persons a "large" bill  on occasion in NYC. One time was quite comical. The guy's eyes got really wide and he froze for a moment. Then, still frozen and acting dramatically dazed, the guy said something like "WOW! I can't believe that just happened. All the other guys said it happens every so often, but I didn't think it was actually true. I can't believe that. Wow."

We took the laugh he gave us as a thank you.

Posted by Timothy Appnel at

I was up in San Jose a few years back attending business conference.  The catered lunch fell through due to the van bringing the food getting into an accident on the freeway so we all had to hoof it to McDonalds or various other Speedy Consumables Facilities to grab a bite.  Outside the McDonalds was a homeless couple offering to clean shoes in exchange for a few dollars to get a bite to eat.  To my great consternation, NONE of my fellow conference attendees would even look them in the eye.  You could see the frustration in the poor womans eyes.  I went inside, grab a couple of BigMacs and Coke for them and went out and sat with the couple and talked.  And we sat there talking for about two hours.  Everyone else had gone back to the conference.  When it was finally time for me to get up and go (I was giving a presentation that afternoon), the man looked me in the eye and said that this had been the first time in the two years they had been living on the street that ANYONE had stopped to talked to them.  They said people would usually just walk by, mutter a few words, drop (or literally throw) a few coins at them then scamper quickly away.  He shook my hand and thanked me.  The woman gave me a hug which I readily accepted.  Then I went on with my day.... oh, and yes, I did get my shoes cleaned.

Posted by James Snell at

No comment, just a smile.

Posted by kasia at

This is one of the things I don't understand about San Francisco. Why is one of the most caring and liberal cities so callous about their homeless?

Posted by Aaron Swartz at

Well Nashville is kind of the same way, it's not quite liberal, but it's very churchy.  All those preachin types telling "others" how to be good to one another, but not hearing themselves talk.

Posted by Kevin Barbieux at

Aaron: Because everyone explicitly chooses what they're willing to be "caring and liberal" about... and in a lot of peoples minds, caring about whales, the coastline, and no tax cuts for the rich is far more chic that caring for other human beings living at the bottom of society... whether they choose to admit it or not.

And to Kevin: The sad truth is that the more "churchy" the people are, the less caring the people are.

Posted by James Snell at

True Dat

I'm currently reading Grapes Of Wrath.  Talk about Churchy people! or as Steinbeck calls them, "the Jesus lovers".

Posted by Kevin at

As an alternative to handing homeless people cash, my girlfriend and I hand them granola bars. We've had this policy ever since we got yelled at by a 'homeless' family with kids who we were trying to help get to a shelter for 'ruining their business'.

Regarding 'churchy people', one of my rules of thumb is to be very wary of any business (or business person) that has a 'Jesus fish' on their business card, stationary, yellow page ad, etc., as it's been my experience that they tend to regard the rest of us as 'fair game'.

Posted by Michael Bernstein at

Michael/Kevin:

As long as we're distinguishing between "Churchy" people and people who truly, honestly try to live according to Christian beliefs, I agree with both of you.

Posted by James Snell at

James, yes, I do make that distinction. More explicitly, I've found that people in the latter category almost never wear their religious affiliation on their sleeve in that way.

Posted by Michael Bernstein at

Aaron, another reason for the callousness you've observed is the venerable policy many US states and municipalities have of giving homeless people one way bus tickets to California.

Posted by Michael Bernstein at

San Francisco Treat. ... Anyway, I am in a gas station.  Tired and lost.  And before I can get out of the car, up walks a black man.  Disheveled.  A hint of gray in his unkempt hair.  With some rags in one hand. He asks me...

Excerpt from On The Mark at

It makes me curious how some, (actually many), when they've received God's forgiveness, begin feeling superior to others who are not "saved."

I would think that people would desire to share this gift they'd received, with others, (forgiven others as they had been forgiven), instead of taunting them with it.

Posted by Kevin at

Speaking from experience... I live in SF.  The Haight actually... pretty hardcore place.  Lots of homeless.  They are aggressive too.  It isn't that we are callous it is that after years of living in the city you realize that there are people who deserve your support and there are those that just abuse the situation.

Living in a specific hood you quickly learn who deserves your support and who doesn't. 

There was a nice old woman in the Sunset where I used to live.  I would usually give her money for food or buy her some food at the local grocer.  The very least I could do was just give her our leftovers we were just going to take home...

One day at night my roommate comes in and says that there was a dead body on the street about 20 feet from our house.  We walk outside and her husband (though I am not sure if they were actually married) was shot in the head... blood running down the hill.

She was there on the street crying... devastated

We called the police and in about 5 minutes they show up.  It was really hard to come to grips with the fact that someone had been shot right in front of my house while I was inside hacking....

It turns out that another homeless man in the neighborhood had somehow acquired a gun and went out and killed two homeless men.  One. on my block and the other in SOMA

The neighborhood was devistated.  When you live in a place where people are so close to each other (like SF) you start to develop a bond for the homeless people that live on your block.

For weeks after there were still people laying out flowers and lighting candles.

It isn't that we are coldhearted.  It is just that we like to know that the person we are giving our money to is going to use it responsibly and not buy a weapon or do something else that is destructive. 

So when you are in downtown SF and you see people ignoring the homeless you aren't seeing how they treat them when they go home... 

Kevin

Posted by Kevin Burton at

Sam Ruby: San Francisco Treat......

Excerpt from PapaScott's Quick Links at

I believe we should be careful about the use of the word "deserve."

Yes, there are those homeless people who will not make good use of what you have to offer, but these people have needs that may be beyond your ability or inclination to provide.

People only get to the point of exhibiting anti-social behavior after having been personally abused in a social context.

Everyone deserves help.  Determining what help people need takes effort.  Supplying that need takes courage.

Posted by Kevin at

Sam Ruby: He asks me where I am trying to go. I tell him the name of the hotel I am looking for. He points off to my left, tells me to cross Market street, and tells me where to turn after that. I thank him. At this point, the man tells me that he...

Excerpt from Jeff's Radio Weblog at

I have to agree with some of the comments here, it's not that we are callous to homeless in SF but sometimes you see homeless people who are apparently making great money at being homeless, they have on brand new shoes and clothes and are clean..I see the same guy everynight on the way home, he is doing good being homeless. Then there are some that you know are using the money for drugs and never will be using it for food or shelter. And then there are some that you give to and it has to feel right for you.

Regarding the one way street in SF as compared to the maze of streets in Boston, I'll take SF anyday..there is some logic to it.

Posted by Julie at

Leaving San Francisco

Today (yesterday) I flew to Phoenix and then to Raleigh, first class. I enjoyed my stay in San Francisco and have some stories that are best told among friends and some stories that are best never told, but needless to say the trip was memorable....

Excerpt from Hacking Log 3.0: America's Blog at

I feel I must comment on this statement:  "you see homeless people who are apparently making great money at being homeless, they have on brand new shoes and clothes and are clean..I see the same guy everynight on the way home, he is doing good being homeless."

First off, no one is "making great money at being homeless."  If you were in need of shoes and some one gave you a new pair of shoes, would you wear them?  How about a nice set of clothes?  Because you are homeless, or living in poverty does not obligate you to look like trash.  If anything, it shows that the person is putting what he is given to good use - better use than on drugs.  One of the first things a person looses when the become homeless is their self respect.  If a person is showing signs of self respect, then he is on the path, the right path, out of homelessness.

You can't just tell someone to get a job, and expect that when he is hired that all of his problems are corrected.  It is a process, a slow and painful process with many hidden pitfalls and boobytraps along the way.  Getting a job is just the beginning.  Dressing with a sense of self respect is also just a beginning.

Don't kick a man just as he's starting to lift himself back up.

Posted by Kevin at

Excerpt:"Anyway, I am in a gas station.  Tired and lost.  And before I can get out of the car, up walks a black man.  Disheveled.  A hint of gray in his unkempt hair.  With some rags in one hand"
Thanks. Nice story.

Posted by Karis at

Homeless?

Anyway, I am in a gas station.  Tired and lost.  And before I can get out of the car, up walks a black man.  Disheveled.  A hint of gray in his unkempt hair.  With some rags in one hand Link to Story: Sam Ruby 3:16:44...

Excerpt from Ramblings of a Lunatic at

Keep It Simple (Stupid?)

Now that I'm moderately embroiled in the "Funky" RSS debate (amazing what one PingBack can produce...) I've been thinking about why I'm frustrated over RSS at this time. It's because it's exploded from a simple format (0.91) into a seething mass of...

Excerpt from xasperate.com at

Homeless?

Anyway, I am in a gas station.Ê Tired and lost.Ê And before I can get out of the car, up walks a black man.Ê Disheveled.Ê A hint of gray in his unkempt hair.Ê With some rags in one hand Link to Story: Sam Ruby... [more]

Trackback from Ramblings of a Lunatic

at

I used to surf the web, now I traverse RSS feeds and Blogs

Blogs make you feel close to people... even ones you don't know. I have to say, my favorite blog has always been and continues to be Sam Ruby's. I was out in Seattle and had a bum approach me an I was rude. My friends walking with me looked at me...

Excerpt from Rebecca Dias: Business Implications of Web Services at

I'm a 5th generation San Franciscan who is saddened by our homeless policies. Homeless are dying on the streets from lack of medical care and drug addictions, and yahoos from other states feel "happy" when they hand out 10 dollar bills.

If you care so much, how about handing over the keys to your fancy hotel room? Or getting him a cheap room in the Loin? Your 10 dollars bought him nothing of real substance. Only enough for his next fix.

Tourists, please donate every dime you would normally drop in a cup to Saint Anthony's dining room. They feed thousand of homeless every month.

Instead of buying them a Big Mac and talking with them, then leaving feeling superior to all of the callous walker bys, why not extend a hand and offer up your couch or hotel room floor? Now that would be a real story.

10 dollars? a big mac? Please.

Posted by Cathy at

i live in san francisco and i never give money to homeless people. i don't think it makes me callous at all. and i also don't think that giving a guy a $10 bill is worth the hugest pat on the back.  $10 never fixes a problem.
the social services are better in sf -- that's why there are so many homeless people here.

Posted by kimbe at

KIMBE,

Actually...it's the contant weather that attracts the homeless to SF.
Never freezes...never too hot

Posted by jones at

I heard homeless people get $400.00 a month in San Francisco. Can anyone confirm or deny. Thanks.

Posted by Janis at

Janis,

"...welfare checks of up to $410 a month given to the homeless -- the biggest in the state..."

from San Francisco Chronicle article titled "Enablers", part four in a five part series on the homeless [in San Francisco].

Posted by Tantek at

I have been homeless many times myself, but eventually found a job, money and housing each time. Many times I ahd to panhandle myself. It is usual to get nothing. Some people will give you loose change, some will pick out the change higher than dimes, some will just give pennies. So I can imagine that a guy would feel weird accepting a 10 dollar bill, maybe you are joking, maybe you cannot see well to see the denomination?

Most I ever got was 2 20 dollar bills at Christmas time in Toronto, Ontario, Canada in front of the Eatons Center on Queen and Yonge St.

My homless story.

Posted by Homeless Before at

Yes they get $410 a month. It's a cakewalk. I personally know three guys who use that money for combined rent and still panhandle. Hell, I should do it.........Derek

Posted by Derek at

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