It Ain’t Funny to be Homeless

by Mike Lee

I find being homeless to be funny. Keep in mind, 97% is trial and tribulation; it still has its moments of comic relief.

Just the way folks with shiny shoes avoid acknowledging me sitting on the sidewalk. They’ve even got their dogs trained to avert their eyes, avoiding us, the great unwashed. “No, Fido. Don’t say, ‘Hi,’ to that person: he’s homeless and his socks probably stick to his feet.” Gawd only knows what they teach their kids. “No, Nancy. Don’t wave at that man: he’s homeless and just wants to eat you.” “Now, Scott, eat all of your vegetables. Think of all the starving homeless people on Bryant Street.”

What I find really funny are the so-called “experts” on homelessness. You read their comments every day. They enact laws criminalizing us. They make decisions for us that affect our very lives. At the end of the day, no matter what scheme, theory, or law they come up with, it’s for nothing simply because they refuse to ask the experts on the problem. Let’s say you have brain cancer. Would you ask an auto mechanic for advice? Of course not: You would consult an expert. Homelessness is the same. It can only be resolved with the direct input from those of us who are in the trenches.

If asked how to solve homelessness our collective response would be:

  1. Stop criminalizing us

    There are presently over 20 laws specifically targeting homeless people. Spending thousands of dollars just to chase us is stupid and does not increase public safety.

  2. Housing

    Around one third of homeless people like me receive a monthly income. The number one obstacle we face is that rent for a flea bag hotel is at least 20% higher than what we receive. Creating housing I can afford and I’ll stop sleeping on the sidewalk.

  3. Any solution must be peer-based

    While the City/County spends significant money on homeless services, little of it is peer-based. This has been proven time and time again to be counterproductive. Every shelter either in existence now or in the future must

    1. Set aside at least 20% of paid staff positions for clients.
    2. Be required to hold community meetings where clients make decisions on shelter policy.
    3. Increase the access that Shelter Client Advocates have to the shelters, and allow them to visit unannounced to make contact with shelter residents directly.

    By employing these three simple points the powers that be can immediately reduce the homeless population of our city. Providing homeless people a vehicle to voice their expert opinion results in service delivery that is targeted at the most vulnerable.

What must happen immediately is a change of attitude towards homeless people. We are homeless not helpless. We are not beggars. We are asking for a hand up not a hand out.

While you may find it funny to chase me around, kick me awake, have DPW spray me with unknown chemicals, I don’t. What I do find funny is your attitude you actually think me and mine are going to magically disappear. Before that happens priests will fly and birds will say mass.

From the streets of San Francisco

Homeless Not Helpless

A Hand Up Not A Hand Out