San Francisco, 8AM
Hamish Reid
42

It’s getting to be a national symbol. The question is, how bad does homelessness have to be before a major political party recognizes it as a crisis? Right now we have about as many homeless people living on the street all over the country as there are people living in Wyoming.

The conventional wisdom is that homeless people have alcohol, drug and mental issues, and that it’s these issues that have landed them on the street.

I’m sure lots of homeless people have made bad choices. But have we stopped to consider how many homeless people with drug, alcohol and mental issues started having those issues after becoming homeless?

Some homeless people fell through the cracks and can’t get back on their feet. The system won’t let them. We have a harsh, unforgiving financial apparatus that punishes people for being broke.

Try losing your job and falling behind on your rent and credit card payments. Then try getting another job when your credit score is in the toilet.

When people can’t afford to pay their phone bill, they lose the one way a prospective employer can reach them. They are now one step away from living on the street.

When Wall Street causes another financial meltdown, we’ll see more layoffs and more homeless people. Millions of people are one paycheck away from financial catastrophe and don’t even know it.

Ask people what they’re most afraid of, and you’ll find that a surprising number of them are haunted by the same fear — of ending up old and sick and broke and pushing a shopping cart.

I guess in that sense San Francisco is truly the city of the future.

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