What Happens When You Give A Homeless Person A Fancy Degree And A Blogging Platform (they call you on your shit)
So the Mister Mayor of San Francisco, Gavin Newsom, has decided to take one last swing at the homeless before leaving office. As a person who once was homeless on the streets of San Francisco, I have a little something or other to say about that.
I was once one of those homeless people in San Francisco. Kicked out of my shelter in the early morning, before anything was open. The options were to try to muster the energy, after a night of likely very light sleep, to wander about aimlessly for a few hours, or to sit in a park and hope not to get kicked out. Even job searching locations didn’t open until hours after we were sent out onto the streets.
I would often watch the sun rise from a park that was near my shelter. I tried to look like what I assumed a non-homeless person would look like, despite my exhaustion and, well, my homelessness. I always watched who was about, and hoped that I would not be cited or thrown out.
Often I would walk a few more blocks over to City Hall, where I held a volunteer appointed official position, as a teenage adviser to the then Mayor and Board of Supervisors. I would wait for the first city workers to show up, and then would wander about trying to be useful, or debating policies with those crafting legislation about lives like mine.
Mayor Newsom was then a Supervisor, and my homeless teen self and he would often get into policy discussions. We picked up those discussions, years later, after I had worked my way from homelessness to Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. Mayor Newsom was a guest speaker, and Harvard thought it would be fun to have me introduce him. By this point society, and Harvard, had come to view me as someone of measure enough to take the stage to introduce the man who now proposes a law that would have criminalized that teenage kid he used to debate with.