Some wouldn’t consider my city a small city, especially since we have almost 200,000 people living in it. But compared to San Francisco, a city with almost one million people, it can feel that way.
I wasn’t sure what I was expecting when I was California bound. All I knew was that there would be adventure around every corner (and I was right). What I wasn’t expecting, was to be impacted by the dark side of San Francisco.
Just like everywhere else, Evansville has a homeless population. I see them every time I work my weekend job. They’ll come in to escape the heat or the cold. Some are the friendliest people I could ever meet. Others on the other hand are in clear need of psychological help (but that’s a topic for another day).
To paint a better picture of the (homeless) population here, if I were to drive around town I would probably see on average five people on the streets asking for help. The rest either don’t look homeless, are in shelters, or are living in their cars. As sad as this reality is, Evansville can be blinded. Especially since there just aren’t that many visible people living on the streets here. I think due to this detail, people are more likely to help since it seems as if there isn’t an abundance of the unfortunate here.
In fact, there is this homeless man that is always outside of my work who (I assume) is a war veteran. Almost everyday he’ll be downtown outside of my work with his things, waving his flags to show his patriotism. He’s quite an inspiring man, and a kind person too. One day, his bicycle was stolen and a local bicycle shop ensured that he got a new one for free.
When I was in San Francisco, I learned quickly that there was an overwhelming number of people living on the streets. It was unavoidable. Just walking a few blocks, there were ten homeless people. Some sleeping on window sills of buildings in their sleeping bags, some begging for money, and others just sitting there with emotion erased from their faces. It was and still is heartbreaking to me.
The day I landed in San Francisco my friend and I had to walk to the hotel. I remember seeing this mentally disturbed woman who was shouting profanities at anyone that walked past. In that moment, I knew I had entered a world that I wasn’t emotionally prepared for.
While I was in San Francisco, a good majority of my time was spent walking. Because of that, I had the opportunity to fully experience things that those taking motorized transportation overlook. Walking through certain parts of the city was overwhelming. These were the parts of the city where I saw most of the homeless.
Walking through these parts, I was instantly hit with a smell off filth. I inhaled the smell of urine and drugs. The air overpowered my nostrils and burned into my lungs. The ground was sticky with unknown substances, and broken crack pipes crunched underneath my feet. No matter where I turned there were so many people asking for help. Even though I wanted to help, I simply couldn’t. That was when the harsh reality I’ve heard so many times set in: you just can’t help everyone, even if you wanted to.
The worst part of the whole experience was, I became like everyone else. I walked past these people like they didn’t even exist. On the outside I treated them like they were invisible, but on the inside, my heart was breaking for them. Now, a month later, I catch myself wondering if there was something I could have done differently for them.
There are days where the should’ve, would’ve, could’ves invade my thoughts and I can’t stand the fact that I treated these people like they were nothing.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not in any way saying that the people of San Francisco don’t care about the homeless…BUT compared to what I do see in smaller communities, not enough is being done. Even here in Evansville there could be more help given. There are millions and millions of people out there that need help, where does one even start?