yesterday afternoon after sunday streets berkeley, bf and i go to the pizza place nearby to redeem an extra voucher for a slice a pizza that another volunteer gave to us.
but it’s only one slice—won’t be enough for both of us—so we plan to give it to some homeless person (not difficult to find in downtown berkeley) and then go to a restaurant for a more filling dinner.
I’m sitting at a table outside keeping an eye on our bikes leaned against a bike rack, unlocked. waiting for bf to order the pizza. a kid (well, teenager/in early 20s) comes up to me and asks if I have a dollar and ten cents to spare so he can buy a burger from mcdonalds across the street.
I tell him No, (well I did have the money, but it was my last dollar in cash in my wallet. and i follow the rule to never give money to homeless people, but actual food instead in case they use the money for drugs), but if you wait a bit, i can give you a slice of pizza. bf’s inside ordering it right now.
Cool, awesome, thank you so much. He sits on the ground/sidewalk right by the table, even though there’s an empty chair across from me. He has a hand on the ground, in a leaning position. People are walking carefully around him.
He looks pretty young, probably around my age. Face dirty—a bit sunburnt, oily and unwashed. Short/med black hair. Black north face jacket, blue jeans, black Nikes that still look pretty decent, except covered in dust/dirt. maybe a pair of Nike Frees.
After I very briefly tell him about myself (never one to talk about myself), I ask about himself. “Occupy Oakland ruined my life.” How so?
he got arrested 8 times. all for pretty minor stuff like walking on a sidewalk, stuff like that. resulting in 23 days in jail for that one. probably “wrong place, wrong time” sort of thing. i didn’t ask him to delve into each story.
he said was doing his masters at USC. he and his friend were two of the eight people from USC who really started off Occupy LA. there were a few UCLA students, too, but UC’s got a close watch or something and they were outted.
so their group was feeling all riled up and energized. revolution! occupy!
bf came out, we got into talking about other things.
but i’m guessing after Occupy LA the guy and his friends decided to come up to Oakland, where shit happened. now the guy’s living on the streets.
waiter gives bf the pizza, bf hands it to the guy sitting on the ground in front of us. we say our goodbyes and leave in the same direction.
about to turn the corner onto shattuck, and we see the guy again now squatting on the corner opening the bag, starting on the slice of pizza. two other young homeless people are already sitting there. of course, we had to stop because bf is now good at making friends with bums/homeless people.
a few cardboard signs on the ground. one says something like ‘need food. pregnant women eating for 2’. another is ‘no on S’ (Berkeley’s proposed sit-lie ordinance, to prohibit people from sitting on sidewalks).
the girl is eating something from a take-out container. shows us a little box in front of her. it’s a cute pet mouse! mouse in a box! and bf talks to them about ‘no on S’ and his argument earlier today with a guy who had a sign that said ‘yes on S’. and finally we get going for real because we were potentially partly blocking a crosswalk.
anyway, point of this post:
don’t be so quick to judge (read: look down on) homeless people. every one has a story. you don’t know what theirs is until you get to know them.
some may be as normal as you are, until some shit happens and they have to live out on the street.
and vote NO on S if you’re a registered voter in Berkeley!
I read something in the East Bay Express or somewhere saying that it’s a pretty divided issue. in Santa Cruz and a couple other cities they’ve got the sit-lie ordinance, and no problem with homeless [finding elsewhere to stay?].. but people get into bad situations, are unable to keep their housing, so need a place. the streets are home to some people. and it’s not like not having people sit on the sidewalk in front of a store will really increase business by much.
// and it’s so nice to live in the real world. instead of the bubble that is college, especially UCSD in a med-high density suburban enclave 20mins drive on the freeway from downtown.
before I went to college, I remember hearing someone say that ‘college is the only time in your life when you will be with so many people in the same age group’ like it was a good thing. that shit kinda sucks, mangg. you learn so much more meeting people from different age groups, different backgrounds and situations. versus majority asian and minority white students at a UC campus.