Shades of Summer

Posted: July 26, 2007 in Compassion, Discrimination, Homelessness

Most of the time the weather in San Luis Obispo is quite temperate. With summer near its apex the weather is warmer and there are a lot more people engaging in outdoor activities. It is also the time of year when SLO gets the majority of its tourists. It’s also the time of year that the homeless are more visible as they move about the city.  

To the downtown area businesses – all of whom are vying for the dollars that the tourists will spend – the presence of the homeless is a bother. That’s understandable. Businesses are in business to make money and anything that potentially reduces the ability of any business to make a profit is undesirable – at least in the eyes of the downtown business owners. To them the homeless are an enigma; just trouble makers who have no place in the downtown area.

Unfortunately, this point of view is shared by the majority of the community. But the truth is far different than the actually reality.

As a result of having no place to live, the homeless spend most of their time out on the streets. Because the majority of them cannot find adequate employment they have no place to go. Sure, they can go to the day center for lunch, but because it is basically a pretty depressing place to be, most of them will not remain there any longer than necessary. In the evenings, they will go to the night shelter for a meal and hopefully a place to sleep for the night, but when 7:30 AM arrives the next morning they are required to leave shelter property.

Most of the homeless go out of their way to steer clear of being noticed. They try to avoid creating a problem. It’s the minority of homeless who are a nuisance but despite that however, they are the ones who get most of the attention of the police department and the media. And this perpetuates the myth that homeless people are nothing more than trouble making vagrants.

Throughout the summer, most of the homeless are trying to find a place where they can stay cool. That means they will head out to the parks hoping to find a shady spot, to the library or anywhere where they can stay out of the heat.

Despite what some may think, being homeless is not the life of Riley. It is an extremely stressful existence – one that the majority of homeless wish they never had to experience in the first place.

So this summer, if you happen to see a homeless person under a shady tree in the park, or at the library reading, just remember that – regardless of their rumpled exterior appearance – these are human beings who are trying to survive. They are people who experience the same emotions that you do. They are people who long for something better than what their current circumstances allow.

And most of all remember that since the majority of Americans are just one paycheck from being in the same position, the next homeless person trying to find a place to stay cool could be you.

  1. “One Paycheck Away”
    These words have become so meaningful in the past four months to so many people in and around our surounding communities.
    Keep up the great work and advocacy.

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