This woman came up holding several copies of the homeless paper Street Sheet. When she got to the bench I was sitting at she said “Hi, my name is Cynthia.”
"How are you?"
"This paper is published to inform people about homelessness, and what it does is give me a personal choice. Instead of sitting on the sidewalk with some old dirty jeans with some cardboard that says I’m a vet when I’m really not, I’m giving you information. It’s my job. I do this everyday, to get the things that I need, take care of myself, and raise my self-respect. Plus I’m giving something back to the community. It’s only a dollar, but if you’ve got a couple more that’s awesome. Quarters, nickels, dimes, they go a long way too. You have anything you can help me with tonight please?"
"I don’t need a paper, but I can give you some money."
"That’s awesome. I appreciate that but I tell people ‘This is good bathroom reading.’ Everybody got sit down sooner or later."
"I bought one yesterday."
"Would you tell me your story?"
"I appreciate that. Someone stole my tent and my blankets, my girlfriend is cheating on me, I’m just a mess."
"Are you from San Francisco?"
"I was born here in ‘62, but I was raised back east down south. I came back with my ex-husband, then I call myself leaving for a better life, her, now this is my life. I can’t get a job, I can’t get a house. The shelter situation is ‘ehhh’."
"What were you doing for work before?"
"Data entry, telemarketing. I have an Associate’s degree in Business Administration but I’ve been doing everything but business administration because no one will give me the opportunity to put some experience behind the education. Catch 22. I have the education, but I don’t have the experience. I’m doin the best I can one day at a time. And that’s all I can do. I’ll be 51 next month. And by the grace of God I’ll see 61. I’m still here, I’m still standing. I wake up with him every morning and carry him with me every day."
"So it seems like it’s hard to get out of the cycle once you get where you are right now. What ideas do you have to get to the next place?"
"I’m gon tell you a secret: being homeless is a situation, not a condition. This paper is how I handle my situation. They choose to handle their situation different. I can’t knock on em, I can’t be mad at em. They do it their way, I do it my way. As long as I can go to sleep at night with a clear conscience, I’m okay."
"I hear you."
"Thank you. Have a great night."
"Wait wait, may I take your picture?"
"Sure. Right here okay?"
"You sure you can keep your eyes open? You know…because of the sun?"