Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Homeless

I don't know if homelessness is much of a problem in the areas where you live but, increasingly,
the numbers continue to rise in San Francisco.  Partly due to a temperate climate with winter temperatures that seldom fall down to freezing, people flee west when blizzards begin to pound the eastern seaboard.

The National Alliance for Homelessness announced, earlier this year, that, because of the
recession, there will be an estimated 1.5 million people made homeless during the next two
years.  To me, those are terrifying numbers.  We are not talking about the chronic homeless -
those who suffer with mental health issues or addiction and have been on the streets for a year -
but I am talking about the "new" homeless.  These are people, many of them with college
degrees, who held good jobs that have ended because of the recession, who never would have
expected to find themselves in this type of situation. 

Sadly, the number of families experiencing homelessness has increased. San Francisco has the highest per capita rate of homelessness -- nearly 1 for every 100 residents -- of any major U.S. city.  As many as 40% of San Francisco's homeless population is part of a homeless family.  Needless to say, there are not enough resources in the city to accomodate the needs of this many people.  Hamilton Family Center is one of the largest providers of shelter, eviction prevention assistance, rapid rehousing, youth programming, and support services to homeless families in San Francisco.

Today, as I was driving in the city, I saw so many homeless people, more so than usual, it seemed.  I felt so sad, wondering what sort of Christmas they might have had.  While I don't usually give money to people asking for handouts on the street, I do keep bottled water in my car and boxes of trail mix and protein bars to give out.  Having lost my job in February, with a huge drop in income with my retirement, I know how quickly one's financial status can plummet. 
I am just grateful I had a half time retirement income and social security to collect.  It isn't enough to pay my rent if my housemates leave but I'll just have to find a cheaper place to live then.  Hopefully, I won't have to be homeless.

For those of us who can, please make a donation to your local homeless shelters.  So many of them have lost funding and have limited resources.  Some of them need donations such as food, blankets, and toiletries.

When I came home tonight, I found a poem I wrote a couple of years ago.  Here it is

 The Homeless

I pray that I will never be,
Oblivious to those distraught,
That I will never pass them by, 
Without a glance or thought.

I see the tattered homeless,
Who have no food to eat,
Problems seem insurmountable,
To those mired in defeat.

I do not know the circumstance,
That led them to this fate,
Yet I'm aware it's possible,
We all could reach this state.

I'm saddest most at children,
Who haven't any toys,
Huddled with homeless parents,
They lack all the childhood joys.

We can help in different ways,
By trying to ease the pain,
Making sure we treat the homeless,
With empathy, not disdain.

Carmen Henesy

Copyright (c) 2007 by Carmen Henesy
All rights reserved. 


  1. this reminds me of a movie i saw a couple of weeks ago..kit kittredge ....it was based in era of great depression in America.......

    conditions now a days don't seem better than then......poverty is everywhere.....bad thing..don't know what to do....

    wish the best for everyone....thanks for visiting by ...


  2. What a beautiful poem, Carmen! Full of passion. It's very sad to see homeless people sleeping under the bridge bypass for me too. Our church has a lunch program where the homeless can come to eat twice a week.

  3. I love San Francisco but even on my last visit there something like 12 years ago, the homeless situation was a real eye opener to me. I have never seen anything like it. We have homeless people in our city but the numbers are far less. I live on what is defiantly known as the poorer side of town but in the suburbs. So I don't see homeless much but I do see the lucky ones that get housed in commission homes out my way. I feel blessed that I have a job and can support my children and always give to donations of clothes and other household goods charity where ever I can.

    No one should be allowed to be left homeless.

  4. Anonymous6:52 AM

    omce again your hallmark poetry surfaces.. LOVE THIS!!

    Hope your xmas was wonderful!! Here in Canada we have homeless people not sure the count but I am sure 300,000 or there about..
    It is said .
    I feel homelessness has a thousand faces
    and hopefully will not be mine or yours.

  5. As always, you hit the nail on the head. A sad and very true indictment of these times.
    Love thoughtful prose.
    Love Granny

  6. Oh Carmen this is all so sad.....I think of the homeless often especially when it is so cold outside......I try to always donate hats, scarves, gloves even jackets and always donate to the food bank but it doesn't even make a dent in the need.....we don't have homeless in Morinville but I know they do in the City. It breaks my heart really.......:-) Hugs

  7. Hitesh Rawat - I know India has dealt with overwhelming poverty for so long. In the U. S., I think we have been in denial about it here but now that it is affecting the middle class, people are not able to do that anymore!

    Icy BC - during the recent very cold spell here,
    shelters did not have enough beds to accomodate the need. I really don't undersand why they don't open some of the former barracks at the military bases!

    Liss - from all info I read, the numbers will grow worse as middle income folks without jobs, who have struggled on unemployment lose that resource, run out of relatives and friends to stay with, and then end up on the streets!

    Inky - of course, I've only been to Vancouver and Victoria in recent years but I never noticed a homeless population on the streets such as we have here in San Francisco. Yes, I pray I never join the ranks...and that you don't either.

    Granny on the Web - when I am home, I don't deal with these issues as much as when I am in the city and I am confronted face to face with people "panhandling" on every corner. It seems to be especially bad around City Hall - I know the mayor loves that!

    Bernie - that is so great. I know how important those donations are. Hamilton Family Center is always in desparate need here, especially in need of children's clothing as is La Casa de las
    Madres. Hugs to you, too!!

  8. Hi RNSANE!
    Beautiful poem indeed. It is very sad that we are off involved in other countries, which is not bad to say, though our country is in extreme need of help for our own people. And we never seem to get it! If it's for appearance sake, then we failed miserably...


  9. If you're homeless and without shelter, it hardly matters where you live. What does matter is that we each do our own best to help in some small way, never mind if it seems to be just a drop in the ocean. An ocean is made up of millions of drops.

  10. Carmen, Beautiful poem. The stats are alarming. There are so many homeless people in every neighborhood here in SF and just not enough help to go around. I saw on the new the other night when we were having our pouring rains, a homeless man in Livermore who was interviewed and said that there was only one shelter available with only 16 beds and those were only given to women and children. He had to sleep out on a park bench during that storm. It broke my heart to see that. I think it is important for everyone, not just this time of year but all year long to help in any way they can. Whether it be giving a homeless person some food, water or a blanket, every little bit helps. None of us are immune to being a paycheck away from being homeless.

  11. This is a tough issue to crack. What a shame for America to ignore their homeless.

  12. Some homeless people migrate with the seasons, which means that some of yours come up here in the summer. Many of them car camp on my street, and others sleep under the bridge in front of my house or else in the blackberry patches along side the drainage canal.

  13. life can be cruel..
    beautiful verse

  14. Good stuff, Carmen. The local churches here have banded together and are each taking one week this winter to run a shelter. I've signed up to help two nights during our week. Not sure how many we have here. There were a lot in Ann Arbor when I lived there.

  15. it is pitiful. homelessness is proliferate not only here in nc but also in the philippines (well, so much more so in the phil.). i even heard about homeless kids who are in school. it is a sad situation and we all must do our best to alleviate their suffering.

  16. I feel bad seeing those homeless people, it makes me feel how fortunate I am to have even just a simple apartment to keep me sheltered. May some caring souls bring them warmth this cold winter season.

  17. bessye - I often feel that we are not taking care
    of our own, either. This past February, I was
    in New Orleans, where I went to nursing school
    nearly 45 years ago and, it saddens me so much,
    to see how much work still needs to be done
    in the aftermath of Katrina. Homes are still
    boarded up and unliveable. Families have not
    been able to return.

    Sheila - you are so right. If everyone would do
    just a little, it would make a major
    difference in the homeless situation.

    Poetic Shutterbug - I saw that news episode and
    it was heartbreaking. That was when we had
    the freezing temperatures which are pretty
    uncommon here. There really aren't enough
    shelter bed to meet the needs. I don't know
    what the long term solutions are. I know
    the tenderloin hotels are horrible places,
    especially for children, but I guess it's
    better than being on the streets.

    lakeviewer - I don't think the homeless
    situation ever gets adequately addressed.

    Birdman - Happy New Year to you.

    magiceye - I know in India, there are large
    numbers of refugees. Here, we also have
    peope seeking asylum from horrible conditions
    in other parts of the world.

    Sharkbytes - in your area, with the cold and
    snow, shelter is so essential.

    cherie - the saddest is the children, no home
    and, often, no food.

    Ayie - CA used to be like the promised land..
    a wealthy state with so many resources...
    no longer!