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A Man Bleeds Outside BART: A Glimpse of Homelessness in San Francisco

As I’m exiting the Montgomery BART station, I see a homeless man resting against a street sign. His arms are caked in blood.

The blood drips down his legs and spills onto the pavement.

He cries for help, yelling to deaf ears, that he no longer wishes to live. No one pays him any mind or attempts to console his thoughts of death and suicide. They watch, unfazed by this man who continues to cut himself in public with a pocket knife.

My roommate and I, stop in our tracks, unsure of what to do. The Financial District’s Finest, look at him with annoyance and disgust, how dare he disrupt their commute.

This horrifies me. I want to yell at every person who walked past this man or looked through him as if he wasn’t real. His eyes swell with tears as he continues to slash his forearms.

His arms have layers of scars, which leads me to believe this sorrow wasn’t from the pain, but the harsh reality of his situation.

As I witnessed thousands of people walk by without saying a word, the remnants of faith I had in humanity all but evaporated.

The only call to action I witnessed came from an American-Apparel-techie plant who gave a grin as he filmed the man for his Snapchat story.

We approach the man and ask what’s wrong? Why was he doing this?

He stops the cutting to look up at us.

“I don’t do drugs, this is my way of coping.”

You don’t need to do this- you’re a good man, things will get better.

“Really? If I’m such a good man why do they look at me like I’m nothing? Like I’m worthless.”

He drops the blade and motions toward the rush-hour crowd, a mere few feet from him.

“They don’t care about me, why should I care about me… I don’t want to live, what’s the point?”

The Suits huff and puff behind us, we have made their life difficult, they must now walk around us. We step closer towards the man.

There’s so much to live for my man. Harming yourself isn’t the answer, it won’t help- trust me. You’re better than they are, don’t stoop to their level.

The man places the knife in his pocket and rolls his sleeves down to cover the wounds, giving us a meek smile.

“Right- this is what they want from me. I won’t let them win.”

He thanks us for talking to him.

We are two broke friends, living in the most expensive city in America. Unfortunately, I had no cash on me, and my credit card was maxed out so I couldn’t afford to buy him any food. I apologize for not being able to help him more, but I tell him that I wish him peace and the absolute best in life.

The image of this man slicing his arms over and over, while people watch him bleed, continues to play in my head.

This is an SOS for the homeless community. Homelessness is not a choice, but a world-wide problem. How many more people do we need to see sleeping in alleyways, strung out in BART stations, or talking to themselves while walking towards oncoming traffic before this problem gets pushed to the forefront?

I hear far too often people say ‘we need to clean up this city’ rather than say they want to help. They see homeless people as everyday amusement, laughing at the person walking around drugged out or mentally gone from lack of treatment.

I find it hard to believe someone woke up one day and said I think I’ll become a junkie. No, these people can’t afford medication, so they self medicate which leads to addiction.

We love showcasing our flag, and saying how great of country we are, yet there hasn’t been a day I walked down the street and haven’t encountered a homeless vet.

We are now a tech hub. With rent and the cost of living being astronomical, it’s no surprise that our homeless population continues to increase.

71% of the city’s homeless had housing in the city before becoming homeless.

San Francisco has a $10.11 billion dollar budget.

We need to start programs that will help these people better their lives. Providing medicine for the mentally ill, creating a space for the homeless to shower, use the restroom, and sleep in peace should be a priority.

For the long-term: providing job opportunities and affordable housing. The businesses that throw out food or discard their clothing for the new season, could be striving to create a program that helps donate those supplies to the homeless. Some of those people sleep outside their storefront at night. I saw a few homeless people using cardboard as a makeshift mattress.

Cops could focus their attention on true crime, instead of spending time disbanding homeless communities, writing tickets for ‘loitering’ and taking the possessions from people who already have so little.

Yes, some cops are just doing their jobs. But I’ve seen far too many cops treat the homeless people like they are animals.

I understand we can’t give money or food to every homeless person we encounter on our day-to-day commutes, but is it that hard to have a conversation, opposed to just sneering and shooing them away?

We’re more likely to film a homeless person rather than say a word to them or actually help. Our words are impeccable, they have the ability to build up an individual or lead them further towards self-destruction. (The Four Agreements taught me that.)

Are we desensitized beyond hope?

I will never get used to the sight of a fellow human harming themselves in public or convulsing on a BART platform from a drug overdose, a rusted needle protruding from their vein.

Show some sense of humanity. If you think that you’re above these people, you are wrong. Quit stroking your own ego.

We the PEOPLE, are created EQUAL,


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