Last week I did a workshop at the Drew School in San Francisco. Each of the 17 students in my workshop created a piece of work that became part of the whole on the meaning of HOME. Then the students did quick writes on the topic of "Homelessness" and how they believe they can make a difference.. See the quotes from their writing below. Their thoughtful responses give me hope.
Homelessness is a critical issue in America and all over the world. I believe that instead of bulldozing the homeless population out of cities, a more helpful approach would be donating to organizations that serve the homeless, smiling at them, volunteering at food banks and soup kitchens. I believe it is important to be grateful for what you have while being sympathetic towards those who are less privileged. TR
I met a homeless man yesterday. He was kind, alone, humble and tired. I think the first thing we can do is talk to homeless people since so few people take the time to listen. Understanding their story is the first step to helping them. DC
Homelessness is such a prevalent issue in our society and people shouldn’t be living like this. There are so many wasted resources that could be utilized by so many. Food, water, money and clothes are all things that could be donated to help so many. LW
In order for our generation to make a difference concerning homelessness, we need to realize that we are not the victims of this. People without homes are the victims. Short term solutions like, donations, shelters, individual contributions are necessary for the survival and wellbeing of the homeless, but it will not solve the general issue. Advocating tenant rights, setting up facilities with affordable, healthy food and providing job opportunities can help to aid those without a home, as well as preventing homelessness. LH
We can begin to help the homeless in our communities by talking to people and hearing their stories. I believe that it is important to learn as much as we can about the situation so that we can make informed decisions about how to tackle the problem of homelessness and become empathetic people. We need to brainstorm ways to build affordable housing and provide resources to those who need them. Most of all we need to take action instead of standing idly by. Indifference will not solve the problem. AB
There are a lot of ways to make a difference. Simply volunteering for places that give support makes a difference. Being kind makes a difference. Being aware of what is happening to people in San Francisco and all over the world makes a difference. Making sure that efforts to help homeless people are constant makes a difference. Making sure homeless people are not ignored makes a difference. AR
I don’t know how I can make change happen, but small acts of kindness can contribute to a broader movement. I can smile at homeless people, tell them to have a nice day, buy them a sandwich or a cup of coffee and so much more. Maybe if I recognize them more, they can begin to advocate for what they want and need. As an individual, I can interact with one person. They can interact with another person and so on. A butterfly effect of change can impact an entire system. CM
I think I can make a difference by being the generation that sees homeless people as people rather than as a burden on society. Rather than referring to them as statistics and trying to avoid their presence, it is important to connect to them and try to understand that I am not very different from them. The laws on whether or not tents should be allowed are being debated right now. We need to pay attention and spread awareness so that people can vote their opinion and change the system. While San Francisco is a very wealthy city, we have the problem of homelessness and this cannot be ignored. IZ
Some steps that could be taken to try and solve homelessness would include opening up more shelters to take in more people as well as creating rehab centers in order to help people become more stable and allow them to get back on their feet. The city should not take down tent cities until the city can provide a better alternative E
To help the homeless, I think that we should have a job center for low skill jobs to get the homeless on their feet. The homeless would gain skills, earn a minimum wage and companies could fill job gaps. We should also create a system in which homeless people could get access to drug and alcohol treatment. E
The reason why a lot of people judge those who are experiencing homelessness is because they do not listen to individual stories. It’s hard not to categorize homeless people into one big group because there are so many. But when you do that you forget that they are individual people with their own stories. We need to share their stories and this way, people will understand that homeless people are not so different from themselves. N KF
I see homelessness when I walk through the city, on the streets, in alleys, near businesses and homes. There is an upcoming mayoral election, it is important to consider how we can all help the homeless problem in our city. There are organizations that one can volunteer for or donate to and groups to get involved in. I think my generation has some new unique skills to bring to the table in solving homelessness. To start we need to grab the platforms available to us and share our views. Technology could be a really helpful tool in doing this. SOD
I don’t think there is any real way to completely solve homelessness. This problem is such a huge global problem that I think there is no one plan to solve it. Much of the world’s homeless problem is due to drugs and alcohol, so I think keeping people sober as much a possible would help. TD
I vividly remember the first time I became aware of the fact that not everyone has a home. I was 5 and sitting in the backseat of my family car. It’s warmth instilled in me the feeling of comfort. I was looking out of the window and I heard my brother and mom talking about a man curled up in the doorway of a store. The only thing protecting him from the cold was a tiny blanket that maybe covered 1/4th of his body. As I snapped out of my day dream, the discussion of this man brought be back to reality. Even though I didn’t truly understand the homelessness issue in San Francisco at the time twas the first step in my understanding about growing up in San Francisco. Now I have a greater understanding. I work at a juice shop 3 days a week after school and during this time I always see on specific homeless woman walk by the door of my shop every day. Almost like clock work, she walks down toward the Embarcadero at 4:30 every night. To be quite frank, this is one of the most consistent things during my week. I am writing about this because I am thinking of how I can help. So next time, she walks by the one thing I can do is offer her a cup of juice. H
I think there’s no one, simple, right answer to homelessness. We have to understand what stands in the way of change. What can we as a generation do? We can change the world one step at a time. The first step understanding. We need to get people to understand the basic problem and not vote for politicians who think that taking something away from someone who has nothing will solve anything. Does it get homeless people out of a certain neighborhood temporarily? Yes. Does it fix the problem? Not at all. We must resist hate and corruption. We must educate the ignorant. We start there. We can give resources to people who need them and we can finally change the world KF
I think that my generation is going to be solving problems of the generations before us Whether that be climate change or getting the homeless of the streets. I think we, as a generation, are going to work off the ideas of the people before us. We will know what failed and what work and we can make it happen. We have the ability to get our hands on resources that are environmentally friendly, cheap and beautiful to create shelter and therapy for those people that need a little help to get their feet on the ground. I sincerely think that my generation is going to fix homelessness in San Francisco and worldwide. AG
Purple Door Coffee is in the Five Points neighborhood of Denver Colorado When I grew up there it was not the best neighborhood in Denver. But all that has changed and the Purple Door looks like part of the gentrification. They serve craft coffee made from house-roasted beans and offer local pastries with style. The Purple Door, however, "has one aspect that sets it apart from other coffee shops in the city — it employs formerly homeless youth." Read More
A few years ago, as part of a program centered on the homeless, eighth graders at the San Francisco Friends School in the Mission read an article in the Chronicle about my drawings and I was invited to speak to these eighth graders at the school about my work. This led to an installation of the drawings in the second floor gallery space of the school in January and February 2018.
I find it gratifying that my work can be a teaching tool for the teachers of these students and that the drawings are perceived as an example of how art, social justice, and action intertwine and intersect. The goal of these drawings has always been to shine a light on injustice and to empower others to make a difference. These students give me such hope for an eventual solution for the problem of those without shelter in this city.
Link to story on the Friends School website
The Goal of the Healthy Streets Initiative is to get people without shelter to the right places and provide more resources to combat unsafe and unhealthy situations. The initiative focuses on five zones where tent camps frequently spring up: The Castro, Civic Center, the Mission. Showplace square and the Embarcadero. San Francisco's mayor, Mark Farrell says, “ We don’t want to just move people around. We are trying to provide placements”
Instead of city resources competing for funding and duplicating efforts, a Healthy Streets Operation Center has been created. All resources are located in the same bldg where officials and first responders gather to confront major emergencies and work with the Department of Emergency Management to respond to non emergency homelessness complaints and connect those living on the streets with health and housing services.
These officials and first responders are from the Department of Public Works, the Department of Health, the Hot Team, the Police Department and the Dept of Homelessness and Supportive Housing. The Center is organized under the Incident Command System that spells out steps for responding to emergency situations. It was started last year as a pilot by the then mayor Ed Lee. In the 28 weeks of this pilot, nearly 274,000 pounds of trash and 60000 used syringes were picked up around Civic Center and 65 to 70 percent of the people ended up accepting some form of city service. The police made 3258 arrests including 637 for alleged felonies.
With sufficient resources, the Healthy Streets Initiative has the promise of being a coordinated effort that could make a positive change for San Francisco's homeless.
Ironically it is the tech boom that has made housing unaffordable for so many. "Many of the homeless work regular jobs, in some cases serving the very people whose sky-high net worth is the reason housing has become unaffordable for so many." AP
In one school in the heart of Silicon Valley, 44% of the students identify as homeless.
Here are the National Statistics about the impact of homelessness on students.