I did some research on San Francisco’s growing homeless population and found some heartbreaking numbers. The city’s homeless population has been estimated at 7,000-10,000 people — including the mentally ill, the unemployed, travelers, drug addicts, and alcoholics. Although California has prospered as a state, the issue has been aggravated due to the deinstitutionalization of public services and a lack of adequate local service systems.
On a mission to find out more, I stumbled upon an interesting story in the San Francisco Chronicle. It talks about the St. Boniface Roman Catholic Church in the Tenderloin. As morning approaches, hundreds of homeless men and women shuffle into the pews of this magnificent church for a few hours of undisturbed sleep. Many of the homeless wander the streets all nights because they fear that if they doze off –they will be assaulted, raped or have their bundles will be stolen; some are crazy, some are frail and old, and some are women who have lost everything due to abusive relationships.
For many homeless individuals, institutions like the St. Boniface act as a safe zone that help them feel just a little bit more human. It is sobering to think that many of the homeless were once fairly productive individuals of our society. They narrate stories of a single stroke of bad luck, an abusive relationship or just a lack of will to live. It is a sobering thought that we may be just a few paychecks from losing everything we have.
A last thought – history judges civil societies not by how well the privileged fare, but by how it treats it’s less fortunate. Perhaps no one understands this better than the volunteers at St. Boniface and Project Homeless connect.