Posts Tagged ‘San Francisco Symphony’

Service of the Fight to Fix Homelessness

Thursday, January 25th, 2024

Like most, I’m more concerned than ever about the burgeoning homeless crisis. There are so many charities pulling at our purse and heart strings that I fear the homeless get pushed down the list of priorities.

I wanted to learn what initiatives major players were planning for this year in NYC so I arrived at 7 PM the other night to hear a panel consisting of the executive directors of several essential charities and the NYC department of social services commissioner. After a few minutes nothing happened. Eventually we were told that the panel would begin at 8:00 PM and that the commissioner was expected at 9:30. A handout passed around later indicated that the event would run from 8:00-10:00. Why did the flyer I was given last week note a 7:00 PM event? There were enough people in the auditorium to indicate I wasn’t the only one to be misinformed.

So, I left and wasn’t alone. Another escapee said as he headed for the door, “It ends at 10 pm? Don’t they realize that tomorrow is a work day?”

Before I left, the audience was invited to take paper bags filled with a sandwich, juice and chips to hand to a homeless person on the way home. A symbolic gesture, if a drop in the bucket, and not a smart strategy for a woman like me, walking the streets alone at night.

I am concerned about a team that people count on to address a monumental problem that can’t get straight the time of a panel and is oblivious to the schedules of an audience.

Because I’ve already expressed my views about the homeless crisis in quite a few posts**, I’m sharing the thoughts of my cousin Deb Wright who lives in the Midwest. She reacted to my squelched attempt for enlightenment. Her experience underscores what we know too well: that sadly, the homeless crises is old news.

[**One idea I proposed in a prior post is worth repeating. Top, overly compensated executives who receive extravagant holiday business gifts from vendors should donate them to charities so that they, in turn, can regift them to their clients or sell them at auction to generate funds to support their outreach programs].

Deb wrote:

“It sounds as if the event was poorly organized.

Homelessness is a huge problem in our country; we have the very rich, also. Going to the symphony in San Francisco with my cousin a few years ago, I couldn’t believe the contrast. You had to step over these poor people to get to the marble stairs! One major reason that no one mentions is that Ronald Reagan as President closed all the halfway houses. We know that mental illness is a huge factor in the homeless population.

“I know in our town, [population around 40K], that there are people who clearly have no place to live. My daughter worked in a shop here all the way through high school and on college breaks. People would come in to keep warm. Often the owner had to call the police if they simply wouldn’t leave or were muttering, etc.  The policeman tried to get this one individual to a shelter and then on to social services. The man would have nothing to do with it.

“So mental health is part of the equation. I had a student whose family lived in their car… eventually they moved to Tennessee.

“In our land of plenty, it is hugely ironic. Drugs are in the mix too.”

Reading about the homeless on the San Franciso Symphony’s marble steps reminded me of the Clark Street, Brooklyn subway station where, decades ago, if you got home late enough, you’d thread your way through a floor full of flattened cardboard boxes laid out like yoga mats with a homeless person trying to sleep on each one.

Have you heard of or observed effective initiatives that help homeless people? Was the confusion in time and the obliviousness of running an event like this so late on a weeknight typical of charity-run events or a one-off?

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