Homeless in San Francisco

December 1, 2003

Kevin Fagan of the Chronicle gets unnervingly close to a band of homeless people. Much of it is too sickening to read, but it should be read anyway.

4 Responses to Homeless in San Francisco

  1. Alice kegelman-Wells on February 2, 2004 at 7:55 am

    I had been searching for my old very good friend for almost 30 years. Her family had moved from N.Y. to Florida and even though I went to visit after that it was the late sixties and early 70’s and I was off doing my own thing and she was too. I think that we both at that time and age we just kind of assumed that each would be in the same place and that never happened and so my search began. It wasn’t until I was able to half way know what I was doing on the internet that I started to search with just my friends first name and maiden name. I searched every day for over a year and struck luck. I met a girl who answered a querie that I had re: my friend and she knew my friends husband who my friend I was told was not with for many years. I helped her to find my friends husband and she helped me with trying to find my friend. After several months we both managed to get in touch. She with her old friend -my friends husband and I had the # for my friends Mom.
    In my mind I could picture my friend married with children and maybe having a nice home somewhere but instead I was in for the heartache of a lifetime.
    My friend was living as a homeless woman in the streets of San Francisco. I have gotten to know and communicate with two of her daughters and one of her sisters who I knew long ago. She has five children and I was so pleased to know that they have nothing but unconditional love for their Mom.
    I desperately want to go out there and try to convince her to please come back to all the people who love and care about her but I just don’t think that will work. I talk sometimes to a social worker who is friendly with her and he let me know that it isn’t that easy. A homeless person has to make up their own mind on their own terms and when they are ready if ever.
    I have read alot of comments by people who are angry with the homeless people. They should be mad at the politicians who only enable these poor sick people to be able to go to the same area each day to get their dope. If groups of homeless people who end up “like a family” are broken up they wouldn’t have their “homies” or their turf if the politicians did something to break it up. Get rid of the source behind where the drugs come in. The majority of the homeless are drug addicts and real hard core usually coupled with alcohol. Most have hiv, aids or hepatitis C. With all these to deal with they develop if they didn’t already have mental issues deep depression along with other emotional and mental problems.
    It all could happen to anyone. I never in my wildest dreams ever imagined my friend a homeless junkie pushing a cart, holding a sign asking for money, having hiv, and everything else that goes with this “Homeless Disease.” I call it that because I see it like that -a disease.
    So all of you high and mighty people out there when you pass judgment on another human being please try to remember that however the homeless got to where they are now are just people like you and me and we aren’t any better because most of us all have some kind of problem or hangup and God does not discriminate! As I mentioned earlier blame the politicians – it seems to me they are the people who aren’t doing anything about the situation -obviously because everything stays almost the same as it was year after year going back who knows how long ago.
    One thing before I go – my friend who is out there in San Francisco was on her way to the olympics in gymnastics, also a great cheerleader, very pretty, mascot of her schools cheerleading team, homecoming queen, and much more. Homelessness doesn’t discriminate!
    Most Sincerely,
    Alice Kegelman – Wells

  2. Alice Kegelman Wells on February 2, 2004 at 8:26 am

    P.S. I forgot to add to my other story that Kevin Fagan the reporter for the very realistic story “Shame in the City” had met my girlfriend in person while doing his story. He doesn’t know that but kevin if you read this article you will.
    Alice Kegelman-Wells

  3. Kevin Fagan on March 3, 2004 at 2:59 pm

    I just saw Alice’s posting, saying she found her friend on the street and that her friend had talked to me. I am so glad to hear that! If Alice would like to talk to me, she can reach me at 415-777-8810, San Francisco Chronicle.

  4. Alice Kegelman-Wells on May 25, 2004 at 10:28 am

    I had written about a very good old friend of mine who ended up in San Francisco, living a hard core existance. I had expressed that “homelessness doesn’t discriminate.” I had written this in response to the many people who had responded to Kevin Fagan’s article in the San Francisco Chronicle re: the homeless. So many people had responded so angrily and ignorant to the fact that even one of there own family members could perhaps end up in this unfortunate situation.
    After writing my article in this blog in February of 2004 I had made my mind up that I was going to San Francisco to see my friend, attempt to help her and I wanted to see up front and personal what the homeless scene really was all about for myself.
    I drove out from Ithaca, N.Y. and it took me about 4-1/2 days. I wasn’t nervous until I got to the Oakland Bridge and headed to South Vann Ness and Mission Street. I was supposed to meet a social worker in San Francisco who was going to bring me to my friend but I thought I had gone through so much to find her that I would also find her by myself in the streets.
    It wasn’t hard – I headed in the area that was shown in the chronicle as to where the “hard core” hang out. When I was in the area I simply asked a homeless man if he knew my friend- he was very pleasant and kind and offered to bring me to her. He did indeed know exactly where my friend was.
    I pretty much knew what to expect because of the reality of the article on homelessness written by Kevin. I felt from his article an almost surreal feeling of stepping in my computer and into his story – that is how real his story was. Everything that Kevin fagan wrote in the San Francisco chronicle was just as it was. Real raw truths and facts about human beings who had lives and stories to tell.
    There was my friend- I hadn’t seen her in 37 years. The last time I saw her she was a beautiful and very talented 17 year old with her whole life ahead of her. Now I saw her as a tired, worn down, homeless junkie. She stood on the edge of a concrete area with some grass and maybe a tree or two. She would step in the street with her cardboard sign trying to get money for drugs. As I started to approach her she turned and the first words out of her mouth were “do you have any spare change for the hungry?” Obviously she didn’t recognize me. But after all we hadn’t seen one another in 37Iyears. I didn’t give her any change but I continued to stand around. Her attention drifted from me to the oncoming cars and back to me. I went to touch my bag and my friend turned and had a big smile on her face thinking she was going to get some money. I then said to her “what’s your name?” She replied with a fake name which I expected. I kept making small talk and I could see she was uneasy because if I wasn’t giving her money then her attention was to be on the oncoming traffic.
    A motorist came by and handed her three peaches which she started to eat as if she was really starving.
    I spoke once again and then I said “don’t you know who I am?” She looked at me and looked and then I had to tell her and she was or seemed very happy that I had come out there. I was however a part of her happy past life and I do believe that she may have had some trouble with that. I knew that deep down my friend was not happy but she was torn between the drugs and a happy normal lifestyle.
    She brought me to a “better” motel as she put it but I could tell it was “used” alot for drugs and sex. Actually she was right as far as the motel went it really was considered one of San Francisco’s better one’s. Hard to believe. I told my friend we were going out to dinner at Fisherman’s Grotto and we were going to have a good time. We did and it was like old times. My friend knew how to act as she never lost her manners and knew everything on the menu. The waiter was exceptionally nice to us and it all gave me such a good feeling. I think my friend had a really good time too.
    I wanted to stay there and help her to detox but I knew that she needed her family for that and my friend told me she didn’t know whether or not she wanted to. I left the next day because I didn’t have the money to continue to stay unfortunately. I would have stayed if I had the means.
    But bigger and even better things were yet to come. I sent my friends sisters Kevin Fagan’s article and when they saw their sister they had no idea that she was as bad off as she was.
    Right after I got home my friends sister and my friends daughter got money together and went out there to help.
    Today my friend who was probably one of San Francisco’s most hard core is completely clean of all drugs. She left San francisco and now resides with her family. She has put on weight and is eating healthy once again and taking really good care of herself in all ways. She is even working for her sister’s business and likes what she’s doing.
    I don’t think that she would be home today if not for kevin’s article.
    Many families either don’t even know where there loved one’s are and that they may be homeless with no address. Families may have no idea of how bad this life is and how close to death so many of the people are. The other thing is how do you find a homeless person even if you knew they were homeless? If you didn’t know that would be even harder.
    I met a couple of the homeless people and talked to them for a good while. One guy was extremely smart, nice looking, and came from a good family.
    I blame alot of this problem on the availability of drugs. The police and the politicians know that there is a steady supply for these people and they have a regular routine to get the drugs. They are available right near City Hall. Why don’t they do something? Things move very very slowly for the homeless but that’s because the politicians talk and don’t really act on the laws they pass. Or certainly don’t follow up on seeing that there enforced on a regular and steady basis. For example I just read where there is now a law agains’t panhandling and several other related new laws. But I would not be at all surprised to see the very same thing going on day after day. The panhandlers are still there – maybe one or two arrests and the drugs keep rolling in.
    I would like to say one thing today and that is Happy Birthday to my friend who had the courage to get out. That took alot of strenth and courage. Today she 54 had she not gone home she may have never seen this day. Alice Kegelman- Wells