Thursday, November 22, 2012

73 as far as the eye can see: Annual Thanksgiving run and homelessness count

This morning was a brilliant day for running.  Just a smidge above 50 degrees. Sun shining, and what seemed like an endless stream of other runners out putting on the miles earning the calories they will ingest later in the day.

As always, I did the same route I have done just about every Thanksgiving I've trod for I can't remember how many years when I started this annual tradition.  I was hoping for the best.  Perhaps this would be the Thanksgiving where there would be a count of zero.  For the first mile, this was my result. I was optimistic.  As I moved from the panhandle into the main segment of our park, my hopes were dashed.  Lo and behold, the first three folks were located near the basketball hoops adjacent to the public restrooms, and then I saw two more ambling toward the other three.

When I first started doing this count, there used to be larger numbers of people located inside the main part of Golden Gate Park. Now, it seems the bulk of the homeless hang out around the outskirts or the nearby business districts.  Today was no different.  The City has done a fine job discouraging people from camping in the usual locations in the park.  And to prove that point, I only saw one other person inside the main park.  I did find evidence of others out there, but true to the count, I only count visible heads, not tents, shopping carts full of a person's worldly possessions, bed rolls, etc..

It wasn't until I got to the edge of the Park underneath the bridge toward the intersection of Stanyan & Haight Streets that I saw a bolus of folks flocked together across the street from the McDonalds.  The number ran up real fast from there.  At least two dozen people were congregated in this area, and the remainder of people were easy to count as they tended to gravitate to the sunny north side of Haight Street, basking in the warmth, splayed out with their belongings, never mind the sit lie law recently enacted.

And so, all told, with the one person spotted inside of Buena Vista Park, I counted roughly 73 homeless people on my run this morning.  This is a conservative estimate. I'm sure there were more out there, but with the 30-40 minutes I was out on my run this morning, those are the one's I spotted.

As to if this is an improvement over years past, I get the sense the answer is no.  It seems like there were a lot more folks out there this morning.  The shift out of the park to the periphery seems to have been cemented, but alas on this day of Thanksgiving, while many over stuff themselves on football and turkey, I'm reminded once again that there are those less fortunate. That there is work to do.

And, no matter the political vagaries of our fair city, where three bedroom homes are nearly never vacated, and two bedroom homes go for upwards of over a million dollars, and yet there are foreclosed vacant properties, I'm left still wondering why the collective we cannot solve this particular problem.  Perhaps we need an open sourced hackathon to corner the source of the problem, identify the barriers to fixing them, and begin removing them and solving it for the sake of the betterment of the whole. After all, isn't our it a measure of the quality of our society measurable by the way we treat those foundering at our lowest rungs?

As we stuff ourselves silly, and give thanks for the gifts we do have, I suggest we turn our thoughts away from what divides us, and make a resolution to come together and figure this out.  After all, we put more than man on the moon and more than one rover on Mars.  Solving the homeless problem can't be nearly as complicated to fix, no?  If we move together, and stop spending unfathomable millions of dollars on political campaigns and instead use those valuable resources toward more positive ends,  perhaps the next time I write this report, things will have improved.

Until next year...

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