A Sweepy Little Town

By Andy Howard

First installment:

Will was entranced in his thoughts, mesmerized by the rattling, clanging, window vibrating noises coming from the metal behemoth that was the backbone of the local public transportation system, servicing the 49-square mile area of the iconic City of San Francisco.

It had been a long day. He awoke at 5 a.m., met with the group of homeless individuals that resided within a block or two of his own lean-to, then took off with his friends toward the Tenderloin Linkage Center to see if they could land some highly sought after housing. Trying to get housing involves a lot of standing in line, and being persistent and attentive enough to succeed. There was never a shortage of competition, but there was certainly a shortage of housing. Will was glad that the day was over, and he knew there would be 20 or 30 more just like it before success could be remotely possible. 

Will was thankful that he had been proactive the night before. He had sought out the police, fire and Public Works departments and asked for their cooperation during this housing bid. They told Will in no uncertain terms that they admired his efforts to assist so many in the quest for housing. They assured him that they would not disturb the 20-plus encampments that belonged to the individuals going with Will on a daily basis to seek housing. Will told them how long it might take, and they assured him that was fine—they would refrain from sweeping the camps as long as efforts were being made. 

Still, Will was apprehensive. The authorities had let him down before. But there was no way they would break their promise on the first day of the crew’s housing search…was there?

The answer became clear as the group turned the corner from 26th Street onto Shotwell. 

What the F**K?!?

Every single encampment was gone, as if vanished into thin air. Will felt his heart sink to a new depth. For a moment, all of Will’s friends forgot anything good about Will and he became the sounding board for everyone’s anguish, frustration and anger. 

Will turned inward and tried to channel his rage to the ground by taking long, slow breaths for at least 10 to 15 minutes before uttering a single word. This proved very effective and helped to clear his thoughts so he could focus. In this moment he knew that one wrong action—one led by emotions—could prove to be devastating, even fatal. 

The crew was now in survival mode, and quick decisions had to be made. It was already getting dark and still tents had to be procured, as well as blankets, water, food, etc. So many people, so many decisions to be made, not the least of which was: where the hell do we go

Once the crowd’s rage had tempered, Will called everyone that was interested in sticking together, and they had an informal meeting. The topic quickly became…WHERE DO WE GO?

The three most fundamental concerns for any human being when you find yourself on the streets in the dark will always be food, shelter and security. Suggestions abounded as the discussion wore on. For now, sweep tight.

Stay tuned for the next issue to see what new adventures Will and his friends will come up against in the concrete jungle…