temporary address: A passion project to tell the stories of San Francisco’s homeless

temporary address gives a voice to stories that are unheard.

At our breakfast meetings at the Episcopal Community Services, we chatter about the food served at the different centers — they deride the barbeque sauce that drowned a perfectly delectable corned beef hash; reminisce about the granite of New Hampshire and the fall colors of Vermont; discuss the Borscht Belt and the hotels in the Catskill Mountains — “those were the first hotels that had the American plan,” Frank explains to me. One man, with the snowy facial hair and the generous paunch of Santa Claus, tells us about an aunt who would send him treats from Canada — maple syrup figurines and Canadian bacon. Deosia describes summers at his grandmother’s house, her artesian well and a smokehouse that produced bacon from her cows.

The breakfast menu varies from week to week — I’ve served slices of homemade blueberry tart, scrambled eggs with rye toast, avocado and bacon omelets — as do the attendees and the conversation. But every meeting takes us around the table, a roll call of our names and how we’re feeling this Tuesday morning. Sometimes, each attendee gives a brief synopsis of his or her story. “How did you become homeless?” we ask each other.

Those who have the least sometimes give the most. This is the third time that someone in the homeless support group offered me breakfast.

Frank seems to have lived nine lives — as a ladies’ man, a ship’s captain, a restauranteur, a husband and father, a California Assemblyman, an alcoholic and a gambler. Deosia’s Social Security pension goes to shelter for his art before shelter for himself. Dale speaks in a southern drawl of the shards of metal embedded in his body, concrete memories of his time in Vietnam. Manny wonders about the path his life would have traced had he escaped the draft.

Next: Why should you care?

Their stories will be told in installments every Monday. Follow me to catch them in your inbox.

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