This article has been translated from Spanish. Read the original HERE!
I came to this country fleeing from terrorism and also so that I could help my family back home. I lived on the street until the happy moment when I was able to rent a couch for $400 a month in an apartment on 20th and Bryant. There I couldn’t sleep until midnight because there were ten people living there. Some worked until late at night and others left very early in the morning, and the sofa was in the place where everyone prepared their food and it was also by the main door of the place. I didn’t sleep properly, but I had a roof and protection. Then I rented my first room with a roommate and from there, I was able to rent a studio and thus I had my own place, which helped me to be at peace and have a better life and concentrate on working and studying.
I remember when I arrived from Los Angeles (I came from San Isidro, where I crossed to enter the country). I had 25 cents to make a call to some “friends” from my country, so that they would receive me in their homes and not let me spend the cold days of December and January, which was when I arrived in San Francisco, on the street. I could spend my last 25 cents on a coffee or to make a call so they could come for me. I decided to make the call, but the public telephone swallowed my currency. My coffee and my help would have to wait. And so the saddest days of my life passed.
I did not speak the language, and there were no public bathrooms. For work, I had to look for construction sites or go to Army St, now Cesar Chavez, where I became a day laborer and learned to work in all kinds of trades. Some places gave out free food, and on Saturdays the churches came with breakfast and lunch—that was a party for many homeless immigrant colleagues who hung around that street waiting for someone to come hire them to do some work for the day. Other days the garbage cans were buffets. Other times good people would take us to a fast food restaurant and to buy food and share it. God, I hope you have blessed those good people.
So I spent a few months studying at CCSF between jobs. I was able to study the language, take courses, and study to continue with my spiritual career. In my country I studied law for 5 years. I have always believed that culture and education is the way to develop our communities.
I ask that you not be indifferent when a homeless person is on your way. Give them a smile of hope. Support all the proposals or policies that help to change the treatment of poor people and to offer assistance to our homeless brothers. They helped me, although some public agencies were the worst, because when I went to ask for help they treated homeless people as if we were guilty of something. Sometimes it felt like being in a prison—they always put us big and rude men in the hostel beds and, since they didn’t understand our language, we were doubly ignored and neglected.
Creativity, humanism, compassion, and solidarity will help to achieve justice for homeless people, and thus open a horizon of opportunities that allow us to be new, productive human beings and a light of well-being as an example that it is possible to get out of homelessness. That can only happen with a home first and the timely help of experienced people and organizations, and when our community is represented in their non-profit organizations and local government, in good faith and with follow-up reviews of their employees, policies and clients. Finally, understand how this crisis is being handled and how budgets are managed. The biggest prize for those who help in this process of serving a homeless person is the smile and the bright look in the eyes of the homeless person who speaks and describes the deep appreciation for the honest effort made without bureaucracies in the fight to get out of homelesness in all its forms and levels.
In solidarity with homeless people who met God in an attempt to be rescued.