New Neighbors Who Live on the Streets

| February 3, 2018 | 0 Comments

“Don’t touch the walk button with your bare hand,” I admonished my granddaughter as we crossed the street to visit Balboa Park. “Either use your elbow or pull your sleeve over your fingers when you push the button.”

When she visits me her favorite thing to do is to go to Balboa Park right across the street from me. Sometimes we go to the playground and sometimes we take a walk into the center of the park. These days I take a bottle of hand sanitizer with us and a bottle of water. I won’t let her drink from a water fountain or use the bathroom anymore. Not with all the news about the Hepatitis A breakout, which has been spread through all the homeless camps, and which now seems to be lessening with the city’s help.

Living across from the park, the news did not tell me anything I did not already know, it just added more details with warnings of keeping your hands clean and not touching anything that might have those germs. Okay, we can do that with crosswalks and water fountains and bathrooms, but what about swings and playground equipment? Who knows what homeless folks have used them during the night?

This is the grandmother who gave her grandkids perspective on why someone might be homeless. My heart goes out to people living on the streets. I tell the kids, “Don’t walk by and think, you bum, get a job.” Instead say to yourself, “What could have happened in this poor soul’s life that he wound up this way.”

But in reality, I am taken aback by how many new people I see all the time living in Balboa Park, walking the streets of Bankers Hills, sleeping in doorways in Hillcrest. The epidemic is now a part of my life too. I live where homeless people live too. We are city dwellers.

I sit on my sofa looking out to the park and hear yelling. I get up to check and yes, it’s another mentally ill homeless person screaming one thing or another. Recently, one man stood in the middle of the street and I could hear every word he screamed. He kind of made sense. He was yelling “I will not be taken to a shelter, I have every right to live outside if I wish, and no one has the right to make me take pills. I hate the pills and I don’t want them forced on me.”

My husband was a conservator for the county and his clients were the homeless. He told me how frustrating it was for him. It was just going around in a circle. Someone would wind up in County Mental Health, be put on meds and then released, when better, to a board and care home. Then, not liking how they felt on the pills, they would stop taking them, inevitably act out and be thrown out of the board and care, and wind up on the street again…just a vicious circle

We are third in the nation for homelessness. It figures, the temperature is mild, very little rain, it is a kinder environment to be homeless. This is where I would want to be if I was homeless. The statistics say it all. There are close to 10,000 people in San Diego, 62 percent live in the city, 395 have some sort of mental health issue, 30 percent are substance abusers and 31 percent are chronically homeless.

The city is trying to deal with this situation. But how are we equipped to handle that many homeless. There are more people on the streets this year than last and it is growing all the time. There is no good answer.

For information on homeless services call 2-1-1 or (858)-300-1211

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