Letter to the Editor: Homelessness in San Francisco

Anja Sofia Grunde

The first time I strolled down the streets of San Francisco, I met an immensely shocking sight. There were homeless people almost everywhere I looked from left to right. People were sleeping on mattresses on the sidewalks. How incredibly cruel and inhumane, I thought to myself as I walked by with an afflictive feeling in my stomach. This sight was extra shocking to me since homelessness is not as severe in my home country. I know that this issue is not a new one for San Francisco, but I also know that it will not go away by simply ignoring the problem.

Homelessness in the U.S. Is it because of the lack of counseling for mental health, the skyrocketing rents, and housing prices or is it more than what meets the eye? I was lucky enough to be born in a country where counseling for mental health is affordable,
and our rents for apartments are not outrageous, yet at least. There is a net of social welfare that will catch me if I ever fail in life so that I can get up on my feet again.

Often when I hear people speaking about the homeless, people will in disgust say something similar to “but they are all addicts, they made a choice.” While it is somewhat true that many homeless people are addicted to drugs, we have to investigate more profoundly than that. Why are people using these drugs? Is it to self-medicate for an existing mental health issue perhaps? What if we could help them instead. Therefore, it is also important to provide accessible help for those struggling with addiction in any form so that they can become a productive part of our society. Moreover, if they cannot, at least we have saved and made
lives a lot better for many people.

Watching people being homeless is hard, no one can deny that. Surely no one wants to end up on the streets, but still, some people will. It is naive to think that just because I made it through the struggles in life, everyone else will as well. Every human being is different and unique in their ways, and everyone will not handle struggles in life the same way.

What if we helped them with housing, counseling and eventually into the job market? Utah did something similar and reduced its chronic homelessness with a fair amount. According to a story by Kelly McEvers of National Public Radio, “Utah reduced its chronic homelessness by 91 percent.” That is pretty incredible, at least according to me. Why are we so afraid to do the same in San Francisco? We are already paying a high percentage of taxes to the state of California, so why are not our money helping those in desperate need of our help? Trying does not hurt anyone.

Helping the homeless goes far beyond just providing a place for them to sleep. We need to get them permanently off the streets. If that means providing permanent housing, free counseling, help to get clean from addiction, and helping with establishing them back onto the job market, then so be it. We do not want the homeless on the streets, and the homeless
people do not want to be on the street. They want to be and feel like everyone else, just as you and I.

If we want the problems with homeless people to go away, we have to do something more than giving them our pity and go on with our lives. Provide the homeless with a roof over their heads, a warm shower, and clean clothes. Give them the help they so desperately deserve. Basic human needs that we often take for granted every single day. What will happen to us the bitter day we fail the system? Do we want the system to fail us as well? Probably not, the homeless people desperately need us. It could be one of us tomorrow.