Friday, August 14, 2009

From the Streets of Downtown San Diego

Photos I collected over the last few months in and around downtown San Diego. There sure are a lot of homeless folks these days (it seems the economic collapse of late last year had put a lot of folks on the streets). I’m a libertarian-leaning independent, but man, I have to wonder if the liberal European countries are doing something much better than we do when they at least have something to show for all the tax they pay while the only thing we have to show seems to be our perpetually misused military... getting their butts shot at in various different countries then coming back here to find themselves on the streets.

(Music is an air check recording of Vesselina Kasarova singing Ruggiero's 'Verdi, prati' during a performance of Handel's Alcina at the Bavarian State Opera in 2005)
There are at least 200 people sleeping on the sidewalks of downtown San Diego every night simply because they haven’t got anywhere to go. All the shelters (most of them are funded by private charity rather than our tax) are full. Last I heard, the waiting list to get a cot in a shelter in San Diego is at least 3 weeks long! I’ve met some homeless here who probably wouldn’t have turned to smoking weed to escape from reality if they had been helped sooner (many made some thoughtless mistakes when they were young and have a criminal record… And that ruins their chance of getting employed for them even if the record only shows misdemeanors and not felony). Now they’ll likely die on these dusty streets sooner or later.

Oh, don’t ask me how they manage to get the weed… I haven’t a clue and neither did I want to know when I was out there. I was lucky that a few drug-free ones had taken it upon themselves to show me how to survive on the street and to stay relatively clean. It is a shame that they are still on the street while I’m not (if you don’t think you need a college degree to get out of the ghetto today, think again, kids!).

If you want to help these guys, DON’T give them money and/or food unless they look like they’re about to drop dead from starvation. Either offer them a job or donate to charities that offer shelters or day centers with counseling and job programs instead! Most folks gain weight rather than lose it living on the street (I was pretty impressed with that. I lost 8 lbs in 12 days myself).

Some of the homeless folks I know will want to bash my head in for telling you to teach them how to fish instead of just throwing a fish on their plate every now and then. But if you really would like San Diego to be free of homelessness, then REALLY help rather than just enable that living condition to proliferate. Donate to or volunteer at these organizations and really help the homeless transients get off the streets for good:
Interfaith Shelter Network
The Alpha Project
Rachel’s Women’s Center
San Diego Rescue Mission
Brother Benno
Salvation Army
Regional Task Force on the Homeless


Purity said...

I have to say Smorg that I am always absolutely shocked and appalled at how far people can fall in the USA without anything there to catch them. I've been to the US many times, and there are a great many things I love about it. But how a civilized nation can stand to have people dying on the steps of hospitals that refuse to treat them, and wandering the streets quite literally penniless beggars belief.

People here bitch and moan about the amount of tax they pay and the fact that it supports "people who don't want to work" or "people who brought it on themselves", but behind every stereotype and prejudiced belief is a real, suffering human being. And there but for the grace of whatever you chose to believe in goes any one of us.

The abyss is never that far away for any of us, but here in Europe there is a safety net. If someone like you can fall without a net, what hope is there for the uneducated, bottom of the heap in the USA?

I'm a died in the wool socialist (unfashionable word in the UK these days, bit like feminist... interesting how these concepts fell out of favour in the greed obsessed 80s and 90s) , always have been always will be, and it fills me with pride to pay taxes and be part of a system that for better or worse provides health and social care at the point of need. It's by *no means* a perfect system, but at least it provides a safe landing for those who, for whatever reason, find themselves slipping. And it's a damn sight better than the alternative.

Thanks for bringing is these images and your story, and I truly hope that things improve for you soon.

Geisslein said...

Smorg, you are good germany we say: You have the heart at the right place! Wish you a great day with lots of nice things happen!

Georg said...

Bonjour Smorgy,

This video is truly remarkable. I played it two times half for the pictures and half for the gorgeous music.

Miss Kasarova has this dark, deep melodious voice so wonderfully suited to Händel's music.

As to homelessness, it is a tragic problem everywhere and it can happen so easily to anyone.

Divorce, loss of work, illness and wham it can happen mighty fast.
Considering this, here in France, the right to a decent lodging has been inscribed in the Constitution, lately. But even here, full implementation will take time.

Another problem are those thousands of immigrants from Africa who come to Europe as clandestines. Frankly, I don't thing it is our job to cater for them. The boat is full and not everybody is rich or affluent over here.


WANDERER said...

Difficult subject Smorg. The cliche is a truism: a country should be judged by how it cares for its poor and underprivileged, speaking from my own glass house. It seems to this outsider that the USA has evolved to a society driven by profit, generaliastion that that is. What is gobsmacking us down here is watching the health care debate get hijacked by fear and loathing.

berenice said...

hola mister Smorg

this is a great video you put together, and the music is as intense as the images, great job! and YES this is a very sad reality we live in this city and country, I cannot believe also how people are opposing to Obama's plan to reform health care, American should be ashamed! i very much agree with Purity's comment, and all the other comments

you know? in this country you can 'survive' if you are rich, but when you are poor, you are better off in a 3rd world country, unbelievable!

also i agree very much with your advice on donating to these institutions you mention, i personally donate to the Salvation Army, i will try to find an article i read on the SA chef, and how he changed working on a hotel in Coronado for working at the SA and now feels that his life is fulfilled, trying to come out with menus that are very cheap but also nutritious

many times these capitalist minds that live in this country just get on my nerves, you know? i make VERY LITTLE for salary, but i still manage to donate, just 'cause i am concerned of how life can twist you around and you can easily living homeless... but many of my acquaintances who make 3 or 4 times more money than me, do NOT donate 'cause they don't want to support what they call "lazy" people... i just hope THEY end up on the streets for at least a week, so they know how tricky is life and how nobody has nothing safe in this world, and that's when our government has to lend you a hand and help you... too sad that most wealthy American people i know, have the same in common: selfishness! thanks for sharing this post mister Smorg!

Smorg said...

Hiya guys and gals!
Thanks very much for stopping by and for your thoughts, too. :o)

The homeless situation is a bad one here indeed, and I'm afraid the recent economy has really exacerbated it. Fixing it will be rather complicated... and it doesn't help to generalize indeed. There are some that are doing everything they can to get off the street but aren't being given the opportunity. And there are some who had given up, but perhaps can be helped back on track. There are some that really can't help themselves (mentally ill or have really crippling physical disability)... And then there are some that have somehow got comfortable begging for meals and sleeping in public places (I don't know how. I could hardly sleep at all and I sure as heck wouldn't beg... hence 8 lost lbs in less than 2 weeks).

I guess it doesn't help that California is almost practically bankrupt and can't hire people (gosh know our streets need fixing and they're laying workers off). They're even paying with IOU's these days and the banks probably won't keep cashing those forever. What a godawfulmess! :oP

Thanks very much again for kind words! Will try to catch back up with y'all soon. :o)