Tuesday, April 30, 2002

Close Encounters - I had an offsite meeting this afternoon so rather than dial-in, I decided to walk 15 minutes across town to the meeting on Market Street. On the way there and back, I encountered at least 40 different homeless people who make downtown San Francisco their home. In this most liberal of cities, there are an estimated 5,000 homeless people in the streets, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

About a third of the homeless were sleeping on the sidewalk in the middle of the day. In several cases, a stream of urine flowed from their makeshift beds--usually a piece of cardboard--down to the street. The dark piles of organic matter on the corner nearby are either poop, vomit or perhaps a mixture of both. Usually, the stench is so overpowering that I will walk into the street to avoid them. Another third were wheeling around shopping carts they had "borrowed" from the supermarket or the local drug store. They pile their possessions into the carts and roam around the streets, some of them stopping at trash cans to look for empty cans or bottles to return for deposit. A few of them had pet cats or dogs chained to their shopping carts. The last group of people can usually be found selling copies of "Street Sheet" (for 25 cents) or in one case, poetry (at $1 per copy).

It is difficult for me to feel sorry for these people. I believe that most of them are mentally ill, and probably alcoholics and/or drug addicts. An overwhelming percentage of them are male, and most of them are white or black. The only Asian one among them is a lunatic named Frank Chu who today was acting even stranger than he normally does. On Market Street, he was carrying the usual sign protesting Galactic impeachment, but this afternoon he was unusually aggressive towards passersby. When I passed him on the street, he was literally foaming at the mouth while screaming something unintelligible at a crowd of people. Many people were openly laughing at him as they walked by.


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