It a was gut-wrenching day.
I don’t want to use the word depressing because if not caused by a chemical imbalance in our body I consider it a sin, Therefore I think - gut wrenching would be a proper word to use.
My day Started with getting out of the woods of high Sierra, an email popped onto my screen that my fragile package of merchandise was dumped somewhere at a door of a house in Brooklyn. They did not update me on the package as usual, and make sure someone signed for it. It cost me few hours of horror, because not only did I pay for it but now I need to sell it, that’s my product!
Burich Hashem it was found, and my life was back on track…for now.
After another appointment with a client somewhere in West Sacramento I got to San Francisco. This is not first time I’m Writing about San Francisco of course. Those who read my essays may remember the one titled – From San Francisco to Alturas. If you don’t remember, please go find it. I won’t give a link because while searching you may find some other interesting essays.
In that essay I described some individuals from the so called lower echelon of society – old and young hippies, street beggars and homeless of the big city.
This was a few years ago…
Much has changed since then. Mostly in numbers.
You may see them in all big cities around the country –the homeless.
People who for all kind of reasons lost their permanent dwelling and are living on the streets of those cities.
If they still have some resources, maybe a job, they can afford to sleep in the car and if not chased away take a shower in some gym or other public places of the kind.
If they have no job and no resources, they are sleep on the street. They obtain cheep tents and put them in some public parks, or usually under bridges where they can get a little bit better protection from the elements.
If they can not obtain tent they build their shelter from carboard, plywood or other sheet of material, wrapping everting with tarp.
Around those shelters they keep their belongings that can’t fit inside – pots, small gas stoves, baskets, some clothing. Food they usually keep inside the shack to prevent it being stolen.
Of course, those shacks don’t have walls securing their treasures but if you think that all those people are thieves, you are making a huge mistake. They know that stealing is evil because for many of them, everything has been stolen from them.
I don’t know the statistics or any data regarding the numbers of homeless people in our country, but after frequently visiting other big cities of the glorious California – Los Angeles, I noticed tent ‘cities’ between bridges and viaducts of highways that are always filled with traffic. The number of those shelters was growing from year to year, but it was nothing compared to the utter shock that hit me in the guts this time in San Francisco.
I didn’t cruse around the entire city but almost every bridge or passage has tens of small villages of people living in such conditions.
Those are not immigrants from other countries, those are mostly born Americans whose life circumstances put them under the bridge, literally.
It hit me to the extent that I couldn’t follow my GPS and driving further out I saw more and more of those ‘villages’. People laying on the sidewalks, sometimes on some old couches or matrasses, sometimes on the bunch of old clothes and sheets of fabric. From time to time, on the sticky concrete or asphalt of the sidewalk.
No doubt, some of them are mentally affected. No doubt some of them are affected by drugs, which I can assume at least some of them opioids prescribed initially to kill some pain. Drugs prescribed by doctors paid by the pharmaceutical companies to sell them and hook people on addiction despite being aware that not only some of those people will lose everything in life trying to buy the product of those pharmaceutical companies but some of them will die.
This essay is not about opioids, but everybody can find multiple documentaries and testimonies from people who failed to those editions.
You may say they have the freedom to refuse? Maybe.
BeEzras Hashem I was never addicted to anything so I don’t understand either, but I will never forget one of my clients - let’s call him Fred.
A little bit chubby, always smiling with a positive approach to life. He owned a small business in the town somewhere in the South West.
For a few seasons he didn’t give me any appointment but when he finally told me over the phone to come I was hoping to see the same Fred.
What I saw was ghost of Fred – his shadow.
It started with some pain that probably came from sitting and doing his job.
He went to doctor and got some strong pain killing medication…the rest of the story isn’t hard to picture. He still owns the business but this is not the same smiling guy who was liked by his customers.
I wonder, I just wonder …how many people on the streets are a product of the killing industry of pharmaceutical companies in collusion with insurance companies. Insurance firms are initially paying for those drugs but when person falls into addiction and is not able to pay, not only for health insurance but rent or even food…there is no insurance from homelessness.
What makes me wonder most is the amount of destitute people in the cities which are proud of themselves as being the most ‘liberal’ or humanistic in the country.
I understand that this and climate may be precisely the magnet pulling homeless people perhaps form other parts of the country. But I also saw homeless in Salt Lake City. The winter there could be bitter. And yet, homeless are pouring in there from all over the country. But weather is not the reason for that, it is the policy of the state of Utah, helping those people to get small apartments which enable poor people to sleep in a bed, to keep hygienic standard allowing them to attend job interviews and even cook something for themselves in own pots on own stove.
It cost money, it does. San Francisco is one of the cities with the highest taxes in the country and there is a large number of institutions there that are supposed to spend some of the taxpayer’s dollars to help the poor or mentally disabled. But it cost thousands of dollars per person and as anybody could see on Google streets passing under the bridges, it is highly ineffective. The tent cities are all over the place.
SF and neighboring cities are the land of the .com boom companies. Here and in LA you can see people earning the best money in the country except perhaps Los Alamos Laboratory. They are driving fancy cars, they have fancy dogs, they hire dog walkers and dog sitters to watch their pets.
It is impossible that while driving their cars or walking those streets that they don’t see what I saw, just driving into the city for few hours. Or maybe they don’t see? Maybe having eyes is not enough to see? Perhaps you also need a soul?
Maybe they rationalize – well… we pay the taxes - let the city or government take care of the problem.
They may have a point, but only to a certain extend. They don’t pay taxes because they want, it is imposed up on them by the government and if those corporations or their owners and CEO’s paying money, the intention is certainly not to help the poor.
But like other self-righties people they also are quick to declare their love for humanity and care about the poor. With all kind of boycotts and other actions to protect anonymous working children in some far away countries or prison workers in other. They love their pets and nature all together spending their resource for care of their dogs and even plants. They are so humanistic…the only ones that are out of this equation of love and care are their fellow human beings, citizens of the same city.
Or as someone recently said about Paralympians – it’s tough to watch those people…
If my suspicion wouldn’t be true, there would not be homeless on the street and under the bridges of those cities.
As was said, we have a government of people who are being paid by pharmaceutical companies profiting from selling death. They are being paid to make sure that no law affects their business or will change this legalized corruption where corporations can buy politicians.
We have a government with politicians creating law to criminalize large sections of population in order to fill up private jails paid per prisoner from our tax money, and where owners of those prisons are able to pay those politicians to make sure that their business thrive.
I hope that all my Jewish brothers and sisters know well about Mrs. Linda R. Reade’s husband buying stocks of private prisons just before his wife in collaboration with other authorities raided Reb Shalom’s Rubashkin Shloicht house. They were expecting number of new prisoners and some money to make in the process.
That’s a tip of the tip of the iceberg of the prison for profit industry with the largest number of prisoners in the world, and that is including China that is five times more populated.
We have a government being paid by the Military Industrial complex which president Eisenhauer was warning us against.
Perhaps he was to late with his warning.
Since then, paid politicians are using existing conflicts or creating brand new ones all around the world to sell their product, many times to opposing sides of the same conflict.
Today days, The American army serves as a mercenary for other countries but besides the hiring parties, only military companies are making money, by being paid by foreign powers and our tax money or sometimes even borrowed from countries like…again - China.
We live in the country where it is legal to kill human being by just changing terminology and stadium of life. Call it “fetus’ and you can kill without regret. Just change definition of life, like in Romania of Nicolau Ceausescu, to improve statistics person was counted alive after living one year out of womb.
Killing human being is included by some to the category of Human Rights – so called “Reproductive right”
Those few listed polices have nothing to do with fact of who is sitting in the White House or the Capitol.
Any of those issues can be used in the election cycle as red meat for the masses to get some excitement and the illusion of choice, but the same as Democrats support wars and pouring money to the military industrial complex or insurance companies despite having legislative majority, the same Republicans allow to kill unborn children when they have majority. It is all for show.
It crossed my mind that perhaps there is ‘homeless industry’, where institutions spending our tax money, instead of finding permanent solution like in Utah, just maintaining number of homeless to justify their existence. Just a thought…
For poor, homeless and sick, our country based on so called Judeo – Christian values as some people call it, for destitute we have no resources and no proper supervision of existing spending. Just talk and talk and talk.
If this and bombing other countries is what Judeo-Christian means? I will pass. I will stick rather with my Abrahamic values.
Chesed – loving-kindness, Tzeduka – justice charity, and care of every orphan, widow, immigrant and unprivileged otherwise. And if I will be taxed by my elected and trusted government to achieve this goal, I will be happy to give my share.
This is what I also learned in last week Parsha – parshas Behar in five books of Moses, this is what I learned from the other Moses – Moses ben Maimon – Maimonides commenting on the commandment of charity. He says - not only to save people who are already destitute but to create a social system that will prevent them from falling in to poverty. It may not work for all of the poor, but if we would redirect our resources and oversee spending by democratically elected officials and free press, there would not be tent cities in our cities.