There is quite a bit of construction going on here in San Luis Obispo, even though there are many who would prefer that the city adopt a "zero growth" policy. But, a zero growth policy isn’t realistic. Even minimal growth is inevitable if a city is going to survive economically.
There are two such construction sites within a 5 or 6 block distance from the Maxine Lewis Memorial Shelter. Both are going to add more than just a few new housing units to the area.
I had the chance to talk with the project supervisor of the site closest to the shelter. He’s a really amicable gentleman, who knew very little about homelessness until his company began preparations for the initial ground breaking.
During our talk he told me that he knew that there were homeless and from time to time whenever he’d see someone panhandling or going through a trash can looking for aluminum cans or something to eat, he’d pass the person a few dollars or so, but that he never really understood the many personal variables behind homelessness.
He admitted that he, like many other people had misconceptions about homeless people, but now that he’s been exposed to more of the homeless he has begun to see the different types of people who are homeless and that he realizes that not all the homeless are what the majority of people think homeless people are.
Despite how busy he is with overseeing the construction project, it seems that he somehow manages to find time to chat for a few minutes with many of the homeless who wander past the site. And, he’s always polite about it: saying "sir" or "miss" to whomever he happens to be speaking with.
It makes me wonder.
How many more people would be a bit more accepting – and willing to help a homeless person – if they took the time to really get to know understand someone who is experiencing homelessness? How many would be willing to accept and not just tolerate the homeless as they seek to survive? How many more would be able to see a homeless person as a person and not something, or someone undesirable?
Perhaps many would continue to maintain the same point of view the have right now. But I’m willing to bet that there would be those would be able to see past the veneer of homelessness and see the person within.
One thing that bothers me about all of this construction going on near the homeless shelter is that both sites will bring additional housing units to the area. And, although there are a good number of this city’s homeless who are working, I don’t think any of them will really be able to afford to move in once the construction is completed.