Handed Out Rain Ponchos And Emergency Blankets To Ten Homeless People
March 11, 2011 Filed in: Life
When I was younger, I ran away from home, and there was a period of time in my life when I did not know where my next meal was coming from, how I was going to be able to pay for it, or if I’d even have a roof over my head that night. Once in awhile, there would not be a roof (luckily, not often), and I’d have to sleep in a park.
I remember one particular occasion when I was 17 where I slept in the Presidio, and it rained. I recall it being extremely unpleasant and I only had to do a few times. Trust me... getting woken up by rain droplets landing on your face and getting wet in the cold morning air sucks. It sucks a lot.
I made a plan to do this today because the forecast said it was going to rain starting Sunday and lasting for quite awhile. J found both the ponchos and the blankets on Amazon. They arrived today just in time.
I took the supplies and went to a spot I knew there would be quite a few people that could use the stuff I had. I drove out to Haight Street and Stanyan, where Haight meets Golden Gate Park.
I made only a few ground rules when I decided to do this:
- I wouldn’t take pictures of the people because I have no desire to exploit them.
- If they offered to sell me drugs, I wouldn’t offer them the items.
I was offered weed a few times.
My approach was fairly simple. I walked up Haight from the park and headed east. Whenever I saw someone that could benefit from the stuff, I said,
“Hey, how ya doin’? Are you living on the street?”
“So, I heard it was going to start raining soon, and I wanted to give you a couple things. I’ve
got a poncho to help keep you and some of your things dry, and I’ve got an emergency
blanket to help keep you warm from the rain.”
This was for the most part met with such gratitude. I actually wasn’t sure if it would be. I was unsure about what kind of reaction I’d get. The people I approached were very different. Some were older, some were younger. Some were men, some were women. Some were Caucasian, some were African American.
All ten people I interacted with were grateful. On more than one occasion, the person asked me what my name was and thanked me. This was really cool. I told them to try and stay dry and to be safe.
I would do something like this again. My only regret is that I didn’t get to talk to them longer. I know they have fascinating stories and to get to listen to them and let them know someone cares about what they have to say would have been nice. I just needed more time.
That being said, if at least one of them benefitted from having the poncho and blanket, I would be happy. If I help one person stay warm and dry, that would be satisfying.
A few related stray thoughts:
For those that don’t know, the issue of homelessness is a topic I feel very strongly about. Here in San Francisco, the city is extremely tolerant of the homeless. Many cities will just try to displace them, either hiding them or basically deporting them. Our city is not only attractive to homeless on a political level but also because of our year round mild climate.
One of my biggest pet peeves is when people call homeless people “bums”, as if their problem was their laziness. Statistically, the main reason people are homeless is mental illness not laziness. They often lack the tools they need to remove themselves from the situation. (Imagine trying to screw a flathead screw in and all you have is a phillips screwdriver.) There are programs that help, like Project Homeless Connect.