During the month of July, editor Sam Cross attended Newsroom by the Bay, the journalism camp at Stanford University. After two days of instruction, the student journalists spent a day in San Francisco to find and write a story. Cross decided to write about homelessness as he saw the issue worsening in his own community. (For the original article, visit nautilusnews.com.) This is the first time this article has appeared on The Feather Online.
Litter crinkles beneath the feet as commuters jostle their way through the city. The smell of rotting rubbish fills the air, but to many San Franciscans, these streets are home.
After the death of his girlfriend, Brian Martin found himself homeless and disabled on the streets of the City by the Bay. Martin is attempting to stay in a shelter and is currently on a waiting list. While waiting, Martin must live on the streets of San Francisco, exposed to the elements and susceptible to criminal acts.
“I am disabled and I was living in Chico for six years, until my girlfriend died of cancer,” Martin said. “(Then) I moved back to San Francisco, which I have been living here for about 20 years. I started staying in the shelter system but I’m on the streets again, until my number comes up again. It’s a long waiting list to get back in the shelters. It’s a long drawn out process.”
According to a 2015 report by Applied Survey Research, homelessness is rising in San Francisco. ASR is a nonprofit organization that serves as a social research firm.
“… The total number of unsheltered and sheltered persons in San Francisco on January 29, 2015, was 7,539. This combined count shows a 2% increase (189 individuals) in homelessness since 2013.” The article continues “… A ten-year trend of comparable Point-in-Time data from general count efforts (excluding the targeted youth count) identified a 7% increase in the number of persons experiencing homelessness in San Francisco between 2005 and 2015.”
Martin predicts he will be eligible to enter into a shelter in two weeks. While living on the streets, Martin encounters many difficulties living in SF including criminals targeting him. However, despite these circumstances, Martin appreciates San Francisco’s many food pantries and soup kitchens.
“The most difficult part of living on the streets is the crime, the drugs, gangs and the dirtiness,” Martin continued. “Gangs will go through your pockets when you’re sleeping. They will take your wallet and your clothes. That’s why I keep everything tucked away tightly so hopefully no one will see it.”
Martin sees homelessness rising in SF, and he believes the rising cost of living in the city is driving residents out of previously affordable housing.
“Housing is what we need more than anything,” Martin said. “The shelters are all full and the wait lists are a month and a half long. People can get on food stamps and personally I’m on SSI disability for a broken back.”
San Francisco offers a transit service to homeless and low income earners living in the city. Designed to help the impoverished travel to loved ones, the program Homeward Bound aims to benefit the city’s less fortunate.
“The homeless can leave San Francisco,” Martin said. “If they have Homeward Bound, they can go anywhere in the United States as long as you have someone there willing to take you. There are ways to get out of San Francisco if you want to.”
Martin uses Supplementary Security Income as a basic source of income. The federal program grants disabled people money for their basic needs. Martin is able to benefit from the program because of his back complications.
After undergoing treatment to mend his broken back, Martin plans to use the Homeward Bound transit to leave the city and move eastward to live with his daughter.
“I am on the verge of leaving San Francisco,” Martin said. “… I want to go to Virginia to stay with my daughter, but right now I am going through some medical treatment. It’s a three-month long process, so once I get that done, I will probably be out of here.”
As the cost of living in many cities continues to rise, local governments like San Francisco’s are taking action to curb homelessness. The city offers resources to the homeless and at-risk low income earners to keep their homes and stay off the street like the Homeward Bound program.
The Feather Online and editor-in-chief Sam Cross will continue their coverage of the homeless issue in the Fresno and Clovis area. Cross and a team of other Feather staffers plan to travel to downtown Fresno and areas near campus, seeking ways to expose the city-wide problem in second semester articles.
For more articles, read Christian campus offers students various opportunities. For more columns, read Behind the Bow: Journalists join cheer practice, share experience.
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