How Did We Let This Happen?

There’s something I’ve been thinking about since I moved to San Francisco, that I really can’t keep ignoring or bottling up. Never have I ever seen so many homeless people in my life. I’ve been in the inner cities of Seattle, Anchorage, Lima (Peru), New York, and many more, and I can’t remember there being so many displaced people. I don’t remember the stench of human waste being so overwhelming on any other city’s streets. It’s floating around in the air on my morning commute, when I run down the block to grab a salad at lunch time, and when I make my way home for the evening.

I can’t help feeling like we are all failing them. Our system has failed these people who slipped through the cracks. Sometimes, when I see someone begging for money or food on the street, I have ugly internal moments where I think “you should get a job”. But then I realize that they may have already tried that, but couldn’t be employed without a valid home address. Or, they don’t have the money to buy clothes appropriate for any job. “They must have options”, I think to myself. But in reality, they have to either a) not have any options left or b) they don’t know what their options are.

Now that I have started working in a tech venture firm, I am constantly dreaming up new apps for people to use. I came up with several ideas for apps that could benefit transients, but then realized that -duh- they probably don’t have internet access or phones. Some do (it’s odd seeing a homeless person playing with a cell phone, that’s for sure), but the majority don’t.

Since getting my camera, I have been wanting to bring it to the city for a day, to take pictures of everything and anything. One thought I had was that it could be interesting to take pictures of, and talk to the homeless I encounter. I’m sure they have some wonderful stories. In the fast pace of the city, those stories get lost. Businesswomen and women walking quickly toward their looming office buildings have developed blinders that only phase out those who are dirty, pushing carts, or carrying bags of clothes.

This is one of those things that I talk about doing, while knowing that I have already made up my mind- I want to push myself to do it. I’m going to pick a weekend day and pack a bag of snacks and drinks (no money), bring my camera, and talk to those who could use my help. I’ll talk to them first, learn about their story, taking notes, then take a picture or two of them, with their permission. It would be a bit like “Humans of New York”, how I envision it.

If nothing else, I want to help make those who have no where to go at night feel like they are not invisible, and that there is at least one person out there who wants to hear their stories.

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