Regular readers, well, if there were regular posts there might be regular readers, of this blog know that every that every Thanksgiving, I run my traditional route through the Park. Along the way, not sure when I started this, I count the number of homeless folk spread out along the way. This is a very imprecise measure of how well we are doing as a society; how we treat those less fortunate than us.
At a time when many families are sucking down more consumables than humanly possible as if it were a contest to see who falls into a food coma in front of the [enormous screen television displaying any old] football game first, the number is indicative of how good or bad things might be on the streets. Think about it this way, if we could some how gather together all the leftovers, how many folks would we be able to feed and how long? Is there another way forward to fix the homeless situation? Who was it that said, "doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result..."
What's different this year is that I totally didn't see a single Hells Angel along Haight Street. They have typically gathered (dozens of Harley Davidsons packed into a row in front of the same cafe) for many years, seemingly celebrating the holiday by going for a ride on a beautiful day. This is too bad, as I had resolved to stop this year and ask one of them what the tradition was. I was secretly hoping that they would explain that they did the ride every year to raise money to build homes for homeless vets. Alas, no luck. There weren't any Hells Angels to ask a blessed thing.
What I did find, after spotting four homeless along the panhandle was a large number of people out exercising - running, riding, rollerskating. As soon as I entered into the wood, there were zero homeless in a typical place that I usually notice a few folks tucked under the brush in sleeping bags.
Along the narrow trail to the knoll, I spot a lead rider in full flashy cycling kit coming out of a tributary and onto my trail. She said, "Runner up." When I got a better glimpse, turns out there were three riders tucked behind her all on Cyclocross bikes. All four tricked out in full sponsored kits of some kind or another. I stood aside and waved them through, "Cyclocross Rules, ATMO!" They said thank you; I'm sure appreciative of not having some runner disrupt their rhythm by clogging up the single track.
At that point, I had reached a count of 6 homeless, and four female cyclocross riders. I thought, maybe this is the year that the system cracked the problem and found a solution to eliminate almost all the homeless. "Wouldn't it be great to report that I had seen more Cross riders and cyclists than homeless?"
No such luck. The first real clump of homeless were sleeping on Hippie Hill, near the tennis courts, then along the hill North of the Sharon Building. The numbers started ratcheting up. Then I hit Haight Street, and that seems to be where the vast majority of the homeless were coagulating this year.
This year, in front of Haight Street Music, there was a clump of folks singing a son, complete with guitars and laughter, and dogs. The last cluster of homeless were gathered under an oak tree at the edge of Beuna Vista - about 13 or 14 folks. At least one of them was cleaning up the camp.
In the end, I spotted 83 homeless people. The distracting siren call of Cross riders a faint memory.