Last night I decided to stop in at my favorite Taqueria for a bite to eat. Sitting by the window, I observed an older, dirty, African-American homeless man in tattered clothes park his shopping cart and come into the restaurant. He had one of those box meals that you just add hot water to and asked the waitress if she would add water to it for him which she was kind enough to do. She asked him if he needed silverware but he had his own plastic cutlery.
When the waitress came to take my order, I had her ask him if he would like a meal and that I would buy it for him. He smiled and shook his head yes, looked over and me and said “thank you”.
When his food arrived, he started eating and once again looked at me, smiled and said “This is really good!”
Why did I buy his dinner? There are multiple homeless in the area but what I observed through the window before he came into the restaurant made him stand out. When he pushed his cart up to the window, he stopped and took a few minutes to straighten up the few belonging that he had in his shopping cart. The blankets were all neatly folded and things were placed in an orderly fashion.
Even though homeless, dirty and dressed in tattered clothes, he still had enough pride to take care the his few possessions.
As I left the restaurant he once again thanked me. By the few words we exchanged, he was articulate and sounded educated. What’s his story?
California has an overwhelming homeless problem. The warm weather draws people here. In San Francisco, in many neighborhoods, you have to watch where you step or you may trip over the homeless sleeping on the street. There it is legal to live on public property, even sidewalks and in doorways.
It’s obvious that many are mentally ill and/or have addiction problems. As I walk down the street and look into the faces of these lost people, many with empty eyes, I find myself asking, “What’s their story?” Everyone has a story, came from somewhere and may even have family wondering where they are. How did they come to be living on the street?
In San Francisco, the Civic Center is a popular place for the homeless to gather. Walking by there one day, I saw a police officer on his knees with head bowed. In front of him was what appeared to be a bundle of rags. Upon closer observation, I realized that it was a homeless person who had died.
What was his story? How does a human being lose his humanity and end up dying alone on the street, little more than a bundle of rags?