From the category archives:

Everything Else

Perspective

September 18, 2010

in Everything Else,San Francisco

JoblessI keep thinking about this lady because I really feel sorry for her.

I’ll call her Francine.

We were homeless recently, Mrs. Rhodester and I, and it was no big deal because it was only a couple of days while some people go for years like that.

Some people die on the street.

Francine thought it was a pretty big deal though as she tried to “help” us but the problem she couldn’t understand was that we just had too much stuff and we had two little kitties, which we refused to part with.

We’d stayed the night before in a hostel on Minna Street here in San Francisco, paying fifty-two dollars for a private room which was just about the last of the cash I had so, when check-out came the next morning, we had to remove our stuff from the room and relocate across the street.

I was about a week away from an unemployment check and we hadn’t the foggiest notion what we were going to do, so we thought we’d try some city services and I’d try the Veteran’s Administration — aka the VA — because I’m a vet.

At about 11:00am, I went off to register with the VA and talk to a social worker, leaving Mrs. Rhodester with our stuff as she tried to make some cellphone calls and do research to get help.

I returned hours later with nothing but referrals to shelters. She hadn’t fared much better.

Francine was standing in front of Mrs. Rhodester, looking kind of scowly and telling her how she can’t live on the street, she just CAN’T!

I had grabbed some Burger King on the way back (had about twenty left in cash) and gave Mrs. Rhodester her share, intending to eat and rest a bit before returning to the task of getting help.

“You guys won’t survive on the street tonight, you don’t know this neighborhood. I see it all from my window,” she said. “There are all kinds of bad people out here!”

She had a point. This was one block off Mission between 8th and 9th so, if you know anything about San Fransisco, then you’d probably agree that we’d have been best off getting into a shelter for the night.

But we had our stuff. It had slowly dwindled from enough to fit in a van to enough to fit in the back of an SUV, and we had two kitties that we were rather attached to. We aren’t crack-addicts, alcoholics, scammers or anything like that. We’d been slowly seeing our lives get chipped away by this recession and we were determined to hang onto what we had left.

I’d placed us across from the hostel in between a parking lot and a warehouse, which had exterior flood lighting at night for their own security and surveillance cameras looking right down at us. The entrance to the hostel fifty feet away had young people going in and out at all hours and frequently sitting on the steps for a smoke break. I came to refer to them as “witnesses” after a while, concluding that perhaps certain bad things didn’t happen to us because they were there, and would see it all.

Francine was insistent on getting us “help,” which I have in quotations because her version was different than ours. She told of how she’d bought a condo down the street and could see the neighborhood deteriorate as the street-people “took over,” making her fearful of coming out at night. She said that her neighbors had seen us “camping” beside the warehouse and Francine was considering calling the police in order to get us into a shelter.

This was our first red-flag — the not so thinly-veiled threat of having the cops called on us. I mean, go ahead! We’re not doing anything illegal. We’re not criminals. We’re not on drugs. We’re not going to rape you, Francine. Have them come out and interview us, then offer us the same fucking shelter information that we already have in hand. After that, they’d go away and leave us as we were in the first place.

Francine disappeared for about an hour to make some calls, then returned with basically the same information we’d already gotten. But there was one point she stressed, and this is where my appreciation for her “help” turned to disdain for her sense of entitlement.

“You know, there’s this program where they give you a bus ticket home,” she said. “Here’s the number.”

A what?

I asked her what “home” she was referring to, because THIS is our home, Francine, every bit as much as it is yours.

“Well, wherever you came from. They’ll set you up with family or friends who will receive you on the other end once you step off the bus.”

I was livid. I told her how I didn’t really come from anywhere, and how I’d been born and raised in California and had even been stationed in San Francisco while in the Navy (LONG before she had her fucking condo). I had about fifteen years on her in age, so she was no-doubt a tiny girl begging mommy for a cookie while I was stationed on the forward-lookout of my ship guarding her from a commie invasion.

At times, I sound like Red Forman from “That Seventies Show,” which I don’t regret very much at all.

I told her that if the good folks at the bus ticket program wanted to send me home, they’d have to hold a seance to contact my mom.

“Well, nonetheless, here’s the number in case you decide to use it,” she said.

I refused to take it.

Francine, I’m sorry that we’re camped out down the street from your condo that you paid too much money for and I’m sorry that you’re really scared of us and not for us, although that’s what you’re pretending to be. I understand we might lower your property values.

Hey, you want to help? How about taking most of this stuff and the two kitties off our hands for a bit, so we can sleep in the shelter for a few nights until we get going again. We’ll come and reclaim them and thank you very much, and then maybe someday repay you if good karma doesn’t take care of that first.

But no. Francine would rather we just have a bus ticket home. Bye bye now.

Too bad lady, we’re here to stay. Someday, I may buy the condo next to yours, what to do you think of that? I’m going to go down to the street every once in a while and give the people down there sandwiches and coffee too.

You can help if you’d like.

Addendum – Yes, we could have gotten into a shelter for a few days if we’d abandoned most of our stuff and had the SPCA come and claim the cats. We refused to do that, and someone relived us of about a third of our belongings at three in the morning anyway, so now we’re traveling lighter than we were.

This isn’t a sob-story or something to elicit sympathy, not when people were killed or maimed recently in a massive fire/explosion a mere ten miles away thanks to the local gas company. It’s merely to lend perspective, because Francine needs it.

I’m contemplating buying her a bus-ticket out of town, to go back to wherever she came from. We don’t need her kind on this block.

RhodesTer on Twitter/Facebook/Subscribe to this mess

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