12PM Sunday 4/16/17
40 individuals have been waiting. Some for hours in the cold exposed to the wind, rain the energizes that are emitted by those who are being traumatized. We are waiting to enter the San Francisco Public Library. The scene reminds me today’s disaster movies. The part after everyone’s community and home is destroyed where the people come together in masses hoping to be saved, hoping to access shelter, hoping to be allowed to share a space that provides for a basic level of human dignity.
It’s raining. Many of the people out here are carrying backpacks, luggage and sleeping bags. This building and others provide sanctuary. But it’s only temporary. This is a place of refuge and protection. These walls provide shelter. It’s warm, clean and everyone is safe. There are no police, no ICE agents and everyone is on their best behavior. Other than the occasional librarian reminding people that “there is no sleeping in the library” this place as compared to the streets of San Francisco might as well be heaven. Everyone here is momentarily given a dignified space away from all the issues that create psychological and physiological trauma. At least until closing hour.
Within these walls is the provision of restrooms, access to information, publicly accessible power to charge a phone or other device and access to internet. These are vital life lines and only in this space are they made available for free with no strings, no long lines, no red tape and no hassles. These amenities most of us take for granted. People who are not homeless have 24/7 nearly uninterrupted access to the major minimally required necessities for survival. As such they have privileged access to opportunities.
Many people who have never experienced displacement or homelessness do not understand what it means to not have consistent access to places to shower, the ability wash or have access to clean clothes or the space to commune in an environment that is safe. If you have never been displaced from that 24/7 bubble of access where there is a guarantee of hot and nutritious meal and a warm and clean place to rest and sleep. Many of us will never fully realize that in the absence of access to these amenities inherently creates a wall that block our homeless from getting out of this purgatory.