In one of the most innovative cities in the world, San Franciscans are moving quickly towards solutions for many of the world’s problems, yet we do so on a backdrop of severe homelessness: the imagery of people living in dire conditions on the streets has become the standard background of life in the City.
In our current state of affairs, it’s easy to stop seeing unhoused community members as people, and let them blend into “the homeless.” It takes a conscious effort to remind ourselves that homelessness is an experience, not an identity.
When it comes to an issue so large, in a place so heavily entrenched, it can be hard to know what to do. We’re asking folks to start by just saying hi.
Why would we ask people to just say hi?
In consultation with our unhoused participants, we asked them, What’s the most distressing part about being homeless? Their responses were not, as you might expect, struggling to find food or adequate shelter. Overwhelmingly our Team Members shared that the most demoralizing part of being homeless is the lack of acknowledgment from other people.
Over the next 12 weeks, our DST staff, Team Members, Graduates, Board Members and others will contribute to a SF Downtown Streets Team Blog, presenting their unique perspective on what we can do to address homelessness in San Francisco. Team Members will share their life stories, detailing how they became homeless and how they’re rebuilding their lives . The blog will be a platform for unhoused community members and the people they work with to show readers that no one’s path to homelessness is the same. Telling our Team Members’ stories is paramount: we can’t change the face of homelessness without them.
Everyone has a part in ending homelessness in their community. The first step is to just say hi!
This is Volume I of the Downtown Streets Team San Francisco blog. You can read all of them, as well as find new entries every Monday at noon on streetsteam.org.