Bearing Witness to Homelessness in San Diego

By Stan Levin / San Diego Veterans for Peace

They are here, by the hundreds, by the thousands, the dispossessed among us.
People having little in the way of the niceties of a comfortable existence
That equates with the concept of “Home”.
Many wear all the clothing they own, on their backs, day and night.
Some push their collection of meager possessions around in a shopping cart they have found
Or stolen, ahead of them in their endless wanderings
To nowhere in particular.

Their days are twenty-five hours.
Some arrived here hours ago, and some have occupied and survived the street for years …. even a decade … Incredibly, even more.
They make do with no bed other than a piece of cardboard
or ragged blanket isolating themselves from the concrete of the sidewalk or the tarmac of the street. Increasingly, tent communities are springing up,
Marginally better living.

No tub to bathe or shower in.
No toilet for nighttime relief
No sink No fridge No couch No car No washing machine.

Imagine that!

Wheelchairs aplenty
Teeth … not so much

Some panhandle “for a living”,
Others collect recyclables to sell,
Almost all make use of available charitable offerings.
They are down in their luck, but, make no mistake,
They are not stupid.

They are all genders, all races, the very old and frail, and the very young children.
Many are veterans of war, and show their scars. For what?
(But that is a story for another day)
Some are out on parole. Some cannot find work, lacking sale-able skills.
Some are educated, some are not. Some are healthy
Most are not.

They suffer, in common
Numerous physical, emotional and social ills.
They are burdened by a disproportional percentage of people struggling with PTSD, alcohol and drug addictions, paranoia, schizophrenia, dementia, depression, mental instability, or incapacitation by common or uncommon disease.

Victims of abuse, violence and rape …abound on the street.

These unfortunate brothers and sisters are broke, hungry, cold, fearful, abandoned.
They often smell bad of human chemical compounds.
They are devastatingly vulnerable and fragile … even those appearing strong.
(Be reminded it is not our place to pass judgment on them, not at all productive
beyond letting us off the hook, nor is it any of our business how people have managed to get themselves into such a sorry fix )

They are human beings, having worth, no less than the rest of us,
In some ways superior in their caring and sharing and looking out for each other.

Like so many species of forest animals, they are being inexorably
Squeezed out of their habitat
Into the shadows.

Creating more room to construct more pricey high-rise digs.
Accommodating, in the main, the immeasurably more fortunate among us,
Many of whom would rather the homeless would just disappear out of their sight,
Because they and their very presence are disgusting and scary.
Many newbies,
(I speculate),
are themselves new arrivals to the city, resourceful, buying up the neighborhood,
Providing obscene profits for builders, marketers and investors,
Adding pressure to the existing finite resources and to an already reeling environment.
(But that, too, is a story for another day, not to be belabored here)

Sidewalk occupants present an embarrassment to this segment’s tribal sensitivities,
Of this I harbor little doubt.

There is considerably more to know of the homeless dilemma
And much for the so inclined to empathize with, and show charity towards.
And for those willing
To shoulder the burden of dealing with the problem.

But, in summary, this is who the street people are.
And we San Diego Veterans for Peace are trying to lend a hand,
Doing whatever we might to alleviate the group suffering
To bring an end to what we perceive as an
To humanity.

I submit Homelessness in San Diego must be ended.

Stan Levin is a Korean War veteran and active member of San Diego chapter Veterans for Peace.

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