“Freedom is sipping cappuccino in San Francisco…” NOT.

We have been on the road now for nearly a month. We’ve gone from Miami to New York, met friends in San Diego and partied it up in Vegas.

And although it has been so far a great experience, there have been more than a few eye-opening moments for me whilst being in America, “The Land Where Dreams Are Made Of” — apparently. -

It seems that the relationship I have started to develop with this country is bittersweet.

Sometimes I look around; enveloped by the heat of the sun’s rays, shades on, and think “I love this place!” There is so much promise, so much to offer. The weather is sweet — way sweeter than England — and people are friendly, nothing but smiles.

But when I look a little deeper, I realize that those smiles are false, — not all, but most. — I see a lot of unrest on the streets, the homeless, resentful citizens… I know that this was to be expected, what, with the recent presidential election and the uproar that it has caused… — But, I really don’t want to get into that right now… -

So, I am not surprised by the unease of the people I have encountered. In fact, a lot of what I have recently been faced with has stuck with me, in more ways than I can begin to explain.

We just recently left San Francisco. We stayed in Mission District, and are now traveling back down the coast towards Los Angeles where we will end our time on the West Side.

We planned to stay a while in San Francisco, but timings sadly did not work out. The reason why we intended to stay there so long was due to the many comparisons we had heard about it to our hometown in the UK, Brighton.

Brighton is known as the “Gay Capital” in the UK. It has the largest LGBT community in the whole of Great Britain — or not so great anymore… but again, another political debate I do NOT wanna get into. — And it has a wonderful chilled, boho, artsy vibe that I love so much. It is my home and always will be.

But the time I spent in San Francisco had me feeling uneasy. — Don’t get me wrong, the city is gorgeous, it’s many hills, the amazing skyline, the squared top houses that paint its picturesque landscape… It’s beautiful. — Despite all of this, I just couldn’t ignore the one thing that stood out like a huge red, throbbing, sore as fuck, thumb.

The homeless and mentally ill.

I am used to seeing people sleeping rough on the streets. Back where I live in Brighton it is not uncommon. We have relaxed the laws of down and out living and for that very reason, because we accept more people onto our streets, we have the highest rate of homelessness in the country.

But what I saw in San Francisco was a different kettle of fish. I understand that the numbers will be greater, Brighton is an ant compared to this city, but there were streets filled with the less fortunate. Block after block, after block.

Trying to brush off the severity of what we were seeing and make light of an incredibly dark situation we named these streets “The Gauntlet” and tried our best to calmly walk them to our destinations of choice.

This is a real hard and heartbreaking truth that a lot of people are happy to turn a blind eye to. Because they are intimidated, don’t know how to help and sometimes, unfortunately, have the belief that these poor souls did it to themselves and deserve to live rough.

What really struck me was the amount of mentally unstable individuals we encountered. — I mean, Brighton is bat shit crazy, there are tons of nutnuts in my city — but none that I have come across are actually homeless.

After a drink or two with the Mr, and running the gauntlet back to our accommodation, I did a bit of research and found that:

20 to 25% of the homeless population in the United States suffers from some form of severe mental illness. In comparison, only 6% of Americans are severely mentally ill (National Institute of Mental Health, 2009).
Serious mental illnesses disrupt people’s ability to carry out essential aspects of daily life, such as self-care and household management. Mental illnesses may also prevent people from forming and maintaining stable relationships or cause people to misinterpret others’ guidance and react irrationally. This often results in pushing away caregivers, family, and friends who may be the force keeping that person from becoming homeless. As a result of these factors and the stresses of living with a mental disorder, people with mental illnesses are much more likely to become homeless than the general population (Library Index, 2009). A study of people with serious mental illnesses seen by California’s public mental health system found that 15% were homeless at least once in a one-year period (Folsom et al., 2005). Patients with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder are particularly vulnerable.”

This is really sad. It really broke my heart and only reinforces my feelings of my previous post.

Society needs a big shift in mindset. We need to care more for each other.

I worry after this year’s series of unfortunate events that we are only moving further away from that….

Next stop, Santa Cruz.