Amongst breathtaking views, architectural marvels, streets lined with mouthwatering cuisine and abuzz with nightlife, live San Francisco’s derelicts—a raucous, dirty, and rank collection of hoboes, a pockmark on the otherwise flawlessly beautiful landscape. San Francisco, with its reputation of liberal and compassionate policy-making, cannot solve its homeless problem. But these down-and-out are as outrageous and innovative as the city in which they live. Though lacking the four walls and roof we know as home, each man has his own turf, where after a good night’s sleep, he loads up his buggy (shopping cart) and trundles off to work. Yes, WORK… of a sort. Perhaps the most famous of these is Bush Man, who hides behind a bush and jumps out at unsuspecting tourists at Fisherman’s Wharf, always to applause and laughter. And, of course, several employ themselves as silver-painted robots, BART musicians, and sign-carrying Jesus freaks. Lesser known are the angry Chinese clown that frequents the #30 bus, the ragamuffin winos with pet rabbits at 9th and Irving, and the woman in Pacific Heights who will not allow a millimeter of her skin to see daylight. Tourists, usually not knowing how else to handle this mob, generously (and quickly) toss cash as they pass. May I suggest a far more beneficial remedy? There are homeless shelters and soup kitchens scattered across the city; perhaps the most well known is at Glide Memorial Church in the Tenderloin. You can serve a meal here, likely chat with a buxom transvestite, and only cut your sight seeing by a couple hours. If you’re a bit too squeamish for total immersion, buy a box of sandwiches and pass them out as you cruise down Market Street. Strike up a chat with a penniless hippy in the Haight. I share my travel stories with Steve (pictured) who plays blues at Pier 35 and I give my used mystery novels to the man who reads himself to sleep in the stoop of a nearby karate studio. San Francisco is much more than the Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf, and Union Square. It’s a city of beatniks, hippies, yuppies, starving artists, dot-com-ers, immigrants, protesters, biotech big-wigs, and far, far too many homeless. Though it’s a task of the city to care for these people, while you’re here, make it a task of yours to brighten their day.
By: Allison McCormick