Image by PETEWILL VIA GETTY IMAGES
Today, as I was walking to work I was noticing that there were a larger number of homeless than I am accustomed to seeing. All of the “regulars” were around, and I checked in with those I’ve been friendly with, at least by eye contact, as I generally do.
When I heard yelling across the street, I looked up, slowed my steps. I wasn’t alone in wanting to know what was causing the ruckus, several other pedestrians slowed their steps or stopped, necks craning to try to see around the large truck blocking the view.
The truck had a sign on the side that said something like “The Clean Team” and there were about ten men (I couldn’t tell their ages from my vantage point) who seemed to be trying to roust a homeless couple who had been sleeping in a store doorway. The woman was very upset and yelling. The men made fun of her, and she got angrier (obviously).
I watched for a long few minutes, phone in hand, prepared to call for help if things got physical, which seemed likely when the male half of the couple stood up and tried to intervene. I couldn’t tell for sure, but it seemed as if he calmed her enough and convinced her that they should just gather their belongings and move on.
A few blocks up the road, one of the regular street cleaner guys was using a far gentler approach with one of the regulars that I’ve offered coffee and breakfast to on occasion. Down every side street and alley, in doorways and on the curbs, homeless people were being forced to get up and move, as if there was anywhere else for them to go.
It made me wonder when we turned our street cleaning people away from picking up trash and cleaning graffiti and started tasking them with homeless duty…when did we decide that our homeless were little more than garbage, with no more value than a cigarette butt or empty food container?
I felt a little hopeless as I climbed the hill toward my office, a little stifled under the privilege of who I am.
As with all things, the whole scene is already percolating in the back of my brain, trying to decide where it fits in current writing projects, or how it might inspire a new one to come.
Until then, remember that Forever is only 99 cents on Kindle, through July 16th.